THE RIGHT TO DISCONNECT

December 20, 2018 at 4:30 am

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. 

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>>> 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.

Mutual of America PSEG

Funders

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

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