Proposal in NYC would curb afterhours work
Employees could have recourse if line crossed
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.
The bill would make it illegal for some businesses to mandate that workers answer calls, texts or emails after their workday ends.