THE RIGHT TO DISCONNECT

Fed up with after-hours emails from your boss? One lawmaker feels your pain. He’s fighting not only for your “right to disconnect,” but to also punish bosses who don’t comply.

Aired on April 4 & 23, and December 19, 2018. 

TRANSCRIPT

> GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS,' I'M RAFAEL P.

RAMON.

THANK GOD IT'S FRIDAY, THAT'S WHAT MANY OF US SAY AT THE END OF THE WEEK, AS WE LOOK FORWARD TO DISCONNECTING FROM OUR BOSS.

BUT WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE GET EMAILS OR TEXT MESSAGES FROM OUR BOSS WHEN WE'RE OFFICIALLY OFF WORK?

CAN WE BE PUNISHED OR EVEN FIRED?

NOW LEGISLATION IS BEING INTRODUCED TO MAKE IT ILLEGAL FOR EMPLOYERS TO REQUIRE THEIR EMPLOYEES TO TEXT OR ANSWER EMAILS AFTER HOURS.

WHEN THEY STILL TEXT AFTER HOURS DEMANDING A RESPONSE, COULD A FACE A FINE.

GOOD IDEA OR ULTIMATE IN GOVERNMENT MEDDLING.

THE CITY COUNCILMEMBER WHO INTRODUCED THE RIGHT TO UNPLUG.

HOW EXACTLY WOULD YOUR BILL WORK?

WHAT THE BILL WOULD DO IS SIMPLY GIVE THE RIGHTS TO AN EMPLOYEE TO DISCONNECT FROM THE WORKPLACE AFTER THEIR REGULAR WORK HOURS.

SO WHEN AN EMPLOYER REACHES OUT TO YOU, YOU'LL HAVE THE RIGHT TO SAY, I DON'T WANT TO RESPOND TO THIS EMAIL, THIS TEXT MESSAGE OR THIS CALL, IT'S NOT AN EMERGENCY AND YOU DRAW THAT LINE BETWEEN YOUR PERSONAL LIFE AND YOUR PROFESSIONAL LIFE WITHOUT FEAR OF RETALIATION.

HOW WOULD THIS BE ENFORCED?

JUST LIKE ANY OTHER LAW THE CITY PUTS IN PLACE, THERE'S A CALL SYSTEM, 311 WILL CONNECT US TO THE DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN AFFAIRS, THAT DEPARTMENT WILL INVESTIGATE YOUR CLAIM AND INVESTIGATE YOUR EMPLOYER AND COME TO THE CONCLUSION WHETHER OR NOT YOU HAVE A VALID CLAIM AGAINST THE COMPANY.

AND THEN IF FOUND GUILTY, THE EMPLOYER WOULD HAVE TO PAY $250 TO THE EMPLOYEE AND $500 TO THE CITY.

ULTIMATELY OR AT THE OUTSET, IT DEPENDS ON THE EMPLOYEE DROPPING THE DIME ON THE EM EMP EMPLOYER, RIGHT?

HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT RETALIATION WON'T HAPPEN LATER?

HOW DO YOU PROTECT THE EMPLOYEE?

THERE ARE CONVERSATIONS TO BE HAD, BUT THIS IS ABOUT THE INSTANCE OF EMPLOYEES NOT FEELING THE PRESSURE OF ALWAYS BEING ON THE CLOCK.

I THINK THE DIGITAL ERA HAS BLURRED THE LINES.

IT'S VERY POSSIBLE NOW FOR YOUR BOSS TO CONTACT YOU ANY TIME OF THE DAY AND IT'S VERY EASY TO FORGET, YOU KNOW, WHEN YOU'RE OFF THE CLOCK.

SO THIS IS REALLY GOING TO MAKE SURE THAT THERE'S A CLEAR LINE TO MAKE SURE THAT PEOPLE KNOW.

WHICH BUSINESSES ARE SUBJECT TO THE LAW AND WHICH BUSINESSES ARE EXEMPT?

THIS BILL CURRENTLY COVERS MOST AWFUL BUSINESSES BUT THERE ARE EXCEPTIONS TO THE BILL.

ANY EMPLOYEE WHO'S REQUIRED TO WORK 24 HOURS BECAUSE OF THEIR JOB TYPE, THAT'S NOT COVERED IN THIS BILL, AND IF THERE'S EMERGENCIES THAT YOUR EMPLOYER HAS TO REACH OUT TO YOU.

I UNDERSTAND THERE ARE JOBS OUT THERE WHERE YOU NEED YOUR EMPLOYEES TO BE AVAILABLE BECAUSE THINGS DO COME UP.

BUT THIS IS ABOUT DOING AWAY WITH THE NONEMERGENCY CORRESPONDENCE.

ASIDE FROM FIRST RESPONDERS AND TRANSPORTATION PUBLICLY SAFETY PERSONNEL, I DON'T SEE A LOT OF GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENTS OPEN ON THE WEEKEND.

THAT WAS INTENTIONAL.

THERE'S ACTUALLY A SEPARATE BILL FOCUSED ON PUBLIC EMPLOYEES.

MY BILL RIGHT NOW COVERS PRIVATE AND COMPANIES THAT HAVE SO EMPLOYEES OR MORE.

SO THERE IS CONVERSATION ABOUT THE PUBLIC SIDE, SO THAT ARGUMENT IS A SEPARATE ARGUMENT.

BUT I THINK IT'S ALSO A NECESSARY ONE.

THERE'S A LOT OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES WHO FEEL THE PRESSURE, FROM THEIR OFFICIAL BOSSES OR THE AGENCIES THEY WORK FOR.

I SAW THIS AND SAID IF YOU'RE GOING TO FORCE IT ON THE PRIVATE SECTOR, WHY NOT FORCE IT ON YOURSELF?

BUT THERE'S A SEPARATE BILL THAT'S GOING TO DO THAT.

WHAT ABOUT THE SMALL BUSINESS PERSON WHO'S JUST TRYING TO MAKE IT.

HE OR SHE IS ON THE EDGE, SHE DOESN'T TELL HER EMPLOYEES TO COME IN ON THE WEEKEND, BUT SHE DOES.

IT'S NOT AN EMERGENCY, BUT IN ORDER FOR HER TO GET THE WORK DONE ON THE WEEKENDS, SHE HAS TO CALL THE EMPLOYEES TO ASK QUESTIONS.

THIS DOESN'T CINCLUDE STARTUS AND OTHER TYPES OF BUSINESSES.

SO WE'LL HAVE A PUBLIC HEARING AND HAVE PEOPLE EXPRESS A THEIR CONCERNS.

IN FRANCE AND GERMANY THEY DO HAVE THIS MEASURE IN PLACE, I THINK IT'S 30 EMPLOYEES OR MORE.

AND ANY EMPLOYEE THAT DECIDES TO CONTINUE WORKING CAN CONTINUE WORKING THIS DOESN'T MEAN THAT IF YOUR EMPLOYEE IS OFF THE CLOCK, THAT HE OR SHE DOESN'T HAVE THE RIGHT TO RESPOND TO YOU IF THERE'S A EMERGENCY.

IF YOU HAVE A HEALTHY WORK ENVIRONMENT, YOU HAVE THOSE EMPLOYEES WHO ENJOY THEIR JOB, THEY WILL CONTINUE RESPONDING.

SO FINALLY, COUNCILMEMBER.

THE VIEWERS WATCHING US RIGHT NOW, A YEAR FROM TODAY, ARE THEY GOING TO BE WATCHING KNOWING THERE'S NOT EVEN A POSSIBILITY THAT THEIR EMPLOYER IS GOING TO BE EMAILING THEM EXPECTING AN ANSWER IF YOUR LEGISLATION IS SUCCESSFUL?

I HOPE NOT.

I KNOW A LOT OF THE YOUNGER GENERATIONS HAVE SUFFERED THE BRUNT OF TECHNOLOGY COMING INTO THE WORKPLACE.

AND I'M THINKING ABOUT THE FUTURE AND LOOKING FORWARD AND PROTECTING OUR EMPLOYEES.

DO YOU THINK THIS BILL WILL PASS?

I BELIEVE IN IT, HOPEFULLY MY COLLEAGUES S DO TOO.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Denise Schwartz, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Janet Prindle Seidler, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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