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A new bill would make it illegal for NYC bosses to contact employees after work hours

Written by
Clayton Guse

A City Council member wants to crack down on bosses who require their employees to maintain contact after hours, and his idea is picking up steam.

Raphael Espinal, who represents the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Bushwick, Bronwsville, Cypress Hills and East New York, is set to introduce a bill in a City Council meeting on Thursday that establishes New Yorkers’ “right to disconnect.” The legislation would make it illegal for employers to require employees to access work-related electronic communication outside of their regular work period. 

If passed, the law would allow workers who are regularly bombarded by urgent, late-night emails from their bosses to issue complaints to the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs, which would then proceed launch an investigation. The legislation only applies to businesses with at least 10 employees, and those that are found to be in violation of the law would be subject to civil fines. 

The bill echoes similar measures that have been passed in European countries like France, Germany and Italy in recent years, and Espinal says that it will help employees and employers alike.

“It’s 2018, and a lot of our work has gone digital, which has made it easier for employees to access their work emails or messages from home,” he said over the phone. “I think it’s important for people to know that they can draw a line as to when their work day begins and when it ends. This bill protects work-life balance, and, for employers, ensures that their employees are working at their optimal level.”

Espinal says that he has gotten “an overwhelming amount of positive feedback” from working New Yorkers in response to the proposal. But he has heard some dissent from those who believe that workers in New York, the proverbial city that never sleeps, should always be on call.

“There was a time when New York was still the city never sleeps, but we weren’t reachable,” he says. “Now it’s impossible to get away from your work because of advancements in technology.”

The bill will be presented to the City Council on Thursday. It currently has no co-sponsors, but Espinal hopes to hold a hearing on it in a meeting of the Committee on Consumer Affairs and Business Licensing (of which he is the chair) before the summer.

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