New CA Bill Allows Employees to Ignore Their Bosses After Work Hours

By: Alex Trent | Published: Apr 07, 2024

California Democrat Assemblyman Matt Haney has sponsored a bill that aims to give workers a “right to disconnect.” When employees are done with work for the day, they would have greater freedom to ignore texts, emails, and calls from their bosses without fearing consequences.

If it passes, this bill would be the first in the United States to guarantee this right to workers. The European Union has a similar provision for their workers, which is called “a legal right to rest.”

Assembly Bill

The bill will force businesses and employees to come to an agreement on how communication during non-working hours will be handled, with a right to disconnect included.

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The California state capitol in Sacramento.

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California 2571 says “This bill would require a public or private employer to establish a workplace policy that provides employees the right to disconnect from communications from the employer during nonworking hours, except as specified. The bill would define the “right to disconnect” to mean that, except for an emergency or for scheduling, as defined, an employee has the right to ignore communications from the employer during nonworking hours.”

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24/7 Accessibility

This bill comes as a response to the increased connectivity that modern bosses have with their employees. Now there are expectations created from the ease of technology that have resulted in a 24/7 work culture.

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Haney says “It used to be that you clocked in, worked really hard then clocked out and went home with your family and resting. Now we have this work culture that’s a consequence of 24/7 accessibility.”

Fining Employers

California AB 2571 would empower the state’s labor commission to issue fines for employers who do not comply with providing a “right to disconnect” for workers.

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The bill would also force businesses to submit to investigations by California’s labor commission and demonstrate that they are successfully complying with demands to create work agreements with their employees that include how non-working hours are treated.

Avoiding Your Boss

A remote worker named Rob Hayes told NBC the lengths he would go to secure some off-time from his job.

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“It feels like I have to set my phone on silent certain times, not open up my computer certain times. If I don’t right now I kind of feel like I would be left behind or not seen as someone who works hard, so I think it’s really beneficial,” said the Solano County resident.

Epidemic of Burnout

Amira Barger is a management expert professor at Cal State East Bay. Barge contends that the problem of 24/7 accessibility is leading to worker burnout.

A student who appears frustrated while looking at his laptop.

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“We are dealing with an epidemic of burnout and that’s part of how we got here,” said Barger. “This is a necessary adaptation as we look towards the future of work. Employees are demanding more of employers and they are demanding a new value proposition of what work looks like.”

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California Leading the Way

Barger argues that California has led the way in the tech industry, so it’s only fair that the state also leads the country in delivering critically needed work-life balance.

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“California created many of these technologies that allow people to be available 24/7, we should also lead the way in making sure we can make them sustainable for work-life balance,” Barger said.

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Making California Appealing

Representative Haney hopes his bill will create a stronger California workforce, and attract people to come work in the state.

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“I’m hopeful that this increases the competitiveness of California’s industries and helps people to come back to work, or come to work in California,” Haney said. “I think this is actually going to help our competitiveness as a state for industries, for highly skilled workers.”

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Constant Competition

California is experiencing recent difficulty in keeping their workers as large companies traditionally based in the state are increasingly moving offices and headquarters to other places.

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“We are in constant competition with other states like Texas and New York who are trying to woo California workers to their states,” Haney said. “[Giving] our workers the right to disconnect will be a major benefit to our workforce and makes the California tech sector better able to compete for skilled workers.”

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Spending Time With Kids

Workers in various industries are encountering problems carving out time for their families and children at home while under expectations to work during off-hours.

A family holds hands and walks together in green grass during the daytime.

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“I think working as a teacher we always bring our work home and are always working weekends. I think that would be beneficial to not give up our precious home time with our kids,” said Brenda, an elementary school teacher.

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Emotional Toll

Some workers report a need to emotionally disconnect from their work, which can cause stress to pile up if you can’t find a way to recharge your batteries.

A woman with long brown hair in a black sweater covering her face with her hands next to a silver Macbook

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“My workplace we’re encouraged to never look at emails or work phones after hours,” said Gabriela Gabriel, who works for a nonprofit. “Working in the nonprofit world sometimes, the emotional toll is a little heavy. Being able to disconnect from that is great to keep your sanity and keep the hope alive we’re making a difference.”

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Criticism of the Bill

Critics of the bill, like business advocacy groups and the California Chamber of Commerce, say the bill isn’t specific enough and may not be good for employees in certain industries who need to be available around the clock.

The California Chamber of Commerce Building, located in Berkley.

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The Los Angeles Times reported that Ashley Hoffman, a senior policy advocate for the California Chamber of Commerce wrote in a letter that the way the bill is written, it would apply to already exempt employees regardless of hours worked and conflict with existing California law.

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