Pro­posal in NYC would curb af­ter­hours work

Em­ploy­ees could have re­course if line crossed

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - NEWS - Charisse Jones

NEW YORK – It could be a fever­ish mes­sage about an over­due re­port. Or or­ders to get the cof­fee ma­chine fixed. Or an emer­gency re­quest to at­tend a meet­ing.

For any em­ployee who has re­ceived press­ing texts or emails from a boss dur­ing the hours they aren’t sup­posed to be work­ing, at least one politi­cian here has a plan to give them re­lief.

New York City Coun­cil­man Rafael Espinal Jr. has in­tro­duced a mea­sure that would make it il­le­gal for busi­nesses with at least 10 em­ploy­ees to man­date that their work­ers check or an­swer emails, texts or even a call on their smart­phone once they’re off the clock.

The pro­posed law wouldn’t bar em­ploy­ers from send­ing a mes­sage af­ter hours or dic­tate that em­ploy­ees can’t re­spond. But Espinal said it should be the worker’s choice.

“Be­cause of tech­nol­ogy, it’s be­come very easy for peo­ple to be pushed to do their jobs 24 hours a day,” Espinal said, “and em­ploy­ees should have the right with­out fear of ret­ri­bu­tion to draw a clear line as to whether they want to work dur­ing their per­sonal time.”

Un­plug­ging from work has be­come in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult in an era when the of­fice and its tasks are a key­board click away.

France en­acted leg­is­la­tion last Jan­uary giv­ing em­ploy­ees at com­pa­nies with more than 50 work­ers the right to ig­nore off-duty emails.

And in 2013, Ger­many’s em­ploy­ment min­istry be­gan pro­hibit­ing its man­agers from call­ing or send­ing mes­sages to em­ploy­ees af­ter the work­day ends un­less it’s ur­gent, ac­cord­ing to a re­port by The Tele­graph in Great Bri­tain.

But the New York City pro­posal is be­lieved by Espinal and work­place ex­perts to be the first of its kind in the United States.

If ap­proved, the law would en­able work­ers who be­lieve they are be­ing re­tal­i­ated against for re­fus­ing to re­spond to a boss’s af­ter-work email to file a com­plaint with the city.

If the claim is found to be valid, em­ploy­ers could face penal­ties rang­ing from a $250 fine to a re­quire­ment that they pay full com­pen­sa­tion, plus $2,500, to a worker who is fired as punishment. Com­pa­nies might also have to pay civil penal­ties to the city.

There would be ex­cep­tions. Com­pa­nies whose em­ploy­ees need to be avail­able at odd hours to take care of busi­ness over­seas would be ex­empt. So would doc­tors, nurses and other on-call work­ers.

Any busi­ness that feels a sit­u­a­tion has to be dealt with im­me­di­ately be­cause the com­pany’s per­for­mance is in jeop­ardy can also ex­pect work­ers to get in touch, even if they’re of­fi­cially off the clock.

USA TO­DAY

The bill would make it il­le­gal for some busi­nesses to man­date that work­ers an­swer calls, texts or emails af­ter their work­day ends.

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