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CA Lawmaker Proposes Bill Forbidding Employers From Calling Workers After Hours

The bill aims to lessen the chances of burnout by creating agreeable rules for when bosses can call workers.

A California state lawmaker aims to alleviate worker burnout through a proposed bill that would limit when employers can contact their employees after work hours.

Assembly bill 2751, authored by state Rep. Matt Haney, a Democrat from San Francisco, would establish a “right to disconnect” throughout the state by requiring employers and workers to agree to rules ahead of time about how or when they can be contacted outside of work.

The bill was introduced in February but is gaining notice now as it is being advanced to a committee for further consideration.

Under the terms of the bill, if the employer violates the rules that they and their workers have established, a worker could file a complaint to the state labor commission, potentially resulting in a fine of $100 for bosses if it’s deemed they broke the rules. The bill essentially places the option to report on an employer in the workers’ hands if they believe they’re being asked to work outside of their normal hours too frequently.

Critics have complained that the bill could hurt small business owners, as they may worry that their actions could get them in trouble, even if they ask a simple question that doesn’t need an immediate response. But Haney maintains that wouldn’t be an issue, as the rules that employers and their workers conceive of could allow for that caveat if they wanted.

Employers “just need to have a policy on it about when people are working and when they are not.” Haney told CBS News. “It shouldn’t be that hard and the problem right now is the murkiness and the gray area can lead people to feel that they need to be on 24/7. If an employee consents to be working late hours and available all the time, have them sign on to that in their employee contract.”

The bill also carves out exceptions for all employers in the state, such as allowing them to contact employees outside of work hours without consequences in an emergency, for example.

Thirteen countries around the globe have enacted laws that are similar to the proposed bill. If passed into law, California would become the first state in the U.S. to implement the idea.

In an appearance on NBC News, management expert and Cal State East Bay professor Amira Barger lauded the bill as a means to lessen worker exhaustion, which has become more prevalent for many workers in the ongoing COVID pandemic.

“We are dealing with an epidemic of burnout and that’s part of how we got here,” Barger said. “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,” Barger added.