NEW YORK, NY – The New York Council wants to ban employers from forcing their employees to answer calls, emails and text outside of their workday.
As technology has become a larger and larger part of our everyday life, a new trend has emerged for many workers, the never-ending work day. Many employees, fearful of reprisal from their bosses, are now required to check their emails outside of work and routinely answer calls from their employers outside of their normal work day. In response to this change in the traditional workday some countries like France, Germany, Italy and the Philippines have passed laws that ban or restrict employers ability to demand that employees respond to emails, texts or phone calls while they are off the clock. Now New York City is looking to join that movement.
A bill that is currently making its way through the New York City Council would make it illegal for employers to require their employees to answer any calls, texts or emails during their non-work hours. Any employer that required an employee to answer these correspondences could be hit with severe fines from the city. The bill would also only cover businesses with at least 10 employees. It would also not cover independent contractors. For employees who work 24-hour on-call shifts, their bosses would not be able to require them to be on call on their designated days off. This piece of legislation also only covers private sector employees as there is a separate bill that is making its way through the Council that would cover public employees. Public sector work hours are also negotiated in their union contracts.
A requirement that staff always be on the clock also has consequences in terms of compensation. Although the staff is required to be on call they are usually not paid for the time that they work after hours. Even a quick response to a text, answering a quick phone call or email can add up to hours lost every month.
While some might think that this legislation is crazy, chief sponsor of the bill, Councilmember Rafael
Espinal, thinks there is a dire need. “We need to establish clear boundaries for employees so they can maintain a healthy work-life balance and live without fear of retaliation for not answering work communications after work hours,” Espinal said. “After leaving the office, many of us are glued to our phones refreshing our Instagram feeds, but often times we are also keeping up with our work and bosses.”