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New York Councilman Proposes Bill That Would Grant NYC Workers 'Right To Disconnect' (vice.com) 94

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: New York City councilman Rafael Espinal released a "Right to Disconnect" bill on Thursday, advocating for the rights of employees to stop answering work-related emails and other digital messages, like texts, after official work hours. "Our work lives have spilled into our personal lives because of technology," he told me. "It's time we unblur and strike a clear line." Brooklyn-based Espinal said he got the idea from France, where a bill passed early last year by the Ministry of Labor requires companies of over 50 employees to define out-of-office email rules. He wanted to create a similar guideline so that workers would not be penalized for disconnecting after work hours. But that's France -- known for joie de vivre -- and this is New York, known for not sleeping.

Answering work emails after work hours, or during weekends, or on vacation, has become par for the course here, and across the US. Statistics rarely account for the extra hours spent managing post-office work -- by most official counts, Americans work the same number of hours -- around 39 to 47 per week -- just as we did in the 1950s. But those of us living it know this isn't true: technology has completely changed the way we work, and burnout is rampant among American workers. If Espinal were able to implement the bill, it would face similar challenges to its European counterparts. Critics say the legislation in France has no teeth, and companies are still allowed to define their own guidelines, leaving room for exploitation. And the New York version of the "Right to Disconnect" bill includes exemptions for jobs that require 24-hour on-call periods.

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New York Councilman Proposes Bill That Would Grant NYC Workers 'Right To Disconnect'

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  • by Marlin Schwanke ( 3574769 ) on Friday March 23, 2018 @11:47PM (#56317539)
    “Wimps don’t want to answer emails at 1:00 A.M. on Saturday night they can always quit.” I imagine that will be the general gist of the commentary to follow. I think that there should be some labor rules as employees generally don’t have much bargaining power anymore. It will be interesting to see how they plan to enforce this.
    • My company does have official policies in place that employees are not to respond to e-mail or phone calls outside of working hours, although they are rarely observed. I think they were put in place because there were some lawsuits against other companies that they heard about that scared them. My own personal policy is to not check e-mail outside of office hours, but I will answer a phone call (it doesn't happen all that often).
      • At the least, when you answer an email, that begins a quarter hour of paid time. More if answering it takes longer.

        When you answer the phone, same thing. And more if you were woken up. At least a half an hour.

        With an option for the company to let you take comp time during normal hours to avoid having to pay for the time. (And of course escrow money to pay for any time outstanding if you are fired or laid off).

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Lawsuits. That's how you enforce most things. If it's made illegal by the bill, you notify the company - if they continue, you get a lawyer and seek punitive compensation.

    • Title heavy on the irony. Came here expecting something moronic. Was surprised to find an interesting comment instead.

      The right to disconnect is an obvious idea and common sense. Which means of course republicans will be fighting it tooth and nail. Humans have this amazing ability to guide our lives through thinking and not purely instinct. How republican voters choose to use this gift: "let's live like ants, working our a** off all day all the time until we die"

    • Stories like this prove the US is nowhere near full employment. We will be at full employment when employees feel comfortable saying no to working nights and weekends.

  • Who does that? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Thundercat007 ( 1105151 ) on Friday March 23, 2018 @11:49PM (#56317541)
    Any job that involved email, off as soon as I walked out the door. My time is my time. Some have complained that I didn't reply at 10pm at night, I don't get on-call pay so I don't answer.
    • I guess people who are in a weaker bargaining position, or who have a tougher time standing up for their own rights?

      Saying things like that is a bit easier when you have more experience (both life and work experience). I'm not sure I approve of handing this over to the government to regulate, but there are definitely employers who will try to take advantage of their workers. I'm in the videogame industry, so naturally I know of plenty of examples of people being forced to work very long hours for no addit

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Some jobs need that. Nuclear, chemical, medical, computer experts.
      Why is a city pushing work out that should have been done? Should be worked on by the next shift of workers?
      Some contractors also sell their workers to a city and as part of that winning bid have to always be ready for work.
      • Re:Who does that? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by angel'o'sphere ( 80593 ) on Saturday March 24, 2018 @04:05AM (#56318025) Journal

        Some jobs need that. Nuclear, chemical, medical, computer experts.
        Actually: NO!

        For safety reasons I prefer fresh workers taking over the work of the previous shift instead letting the previous shift work over time ... nuclear ... are you insane?

        • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
          In the real world the experts get called in no matter the shift and time of day.
          Whats why most advanced nation ensured the needed experts had a landline phone that would be just for a call from work.
          The alarms sound and the nuclear priesthood is called back to work to help the shift at work.

          Thats during an emergency situation angel'o'sphere and why very good communications networks got supported all over the USA for many decades.

          Why a modern city would be pushing everyday digital work like emails to n
          • by hey! ( 33014 )

            Should you plan to get your work done in a limited time, or should you be prepared to work outside the allotted time?

            Yes. Both.

            Saying "this happens in the real world" is no excuse for not managing work properly. You have to be prepared for shit to happen, but you shouldn't allow shit to become your normal mode of operation.

          • The topic is not about emergencies but about managers that assign extra work during the off time of their employees via email etc.

            Thats during an emergency situation angel'o'sphere and why very good communications networks got supported all over the USA for many decades.
            Well, I read /. often enough to know that the USA networks are barely better than 3rd world countries ...

            So what is your point?

    • Any job that involved email, off as soon as I walked out the door. My time is my time. Some have complained that I didn't reply at 10pm at night, I don't get on-call pay so I don't answer.

      All things considered, modernizing the laws for on-call pay probably would fix this problem very quickly--especially if the laws explicitly state that, unless agreed upon by both parties, if the employer expects you to answer the phone/email/texts and do work at all hours, then you are to be paid as if you are always on-call.

      Instead of making it illegal, make it expensive.

  • I can't help but wonder if New York City councilman Rafael Espinal's staff will be allowed to opt-out of after-hours emails without consequences?

    I suspect not, just as OSHA regulations don't apply to congressional staffers.

  • by Memnos ( 937795 ) on Saturday March 24, 2018 @12:19AM (#56317583) Journal

    across the US. Statistics rarely account for the extra hours spent managing post-office work

    Well, why would they? For most people, the extra hours spent managing the post-office is not all that significant.

  • Important people who had to be on call had an extra landline phone connected just for work.
    Later generations had a pager.
    People with needed skills remained in contact in the past.
    Doing emails and work related digital messages sounds like the city has not hired enough people on merit.
    Skilled people get their work done during their work shift.
    Then another shift of skilled people take over with the ability to get more work done.
    Try finding people who can do the work without having to send more work out
  • what about more unions and UBI

    • what about more unions and UBI

      Generally my union is okay with the fact that my pay reflects that I answer the phone after hours.

  • Personally I find doing code reviews in the evening relaxing.

    • So, either get your evenings defined as normal work hours, or do code reviews for OSS projects. Seems easy to understand to me.

      • I am a freelancer and I choose my own flexible hours. Some days I prefer to take a few hours for lunch and catch up in the evening. If I send an email late at night I donâ(TM)t expect a response till the morning.

        If you Slack me in the evening Iâ(TM)ll assume your making up time on something and if a quick response is going to sort you out, then happy to help.

        What I wonâ(TM)t do is call you out of normal hours, as you donâ(TM)t have a choice to respond to that.

        I would take the odd out of

  • by Vranitzky ( 5222955 ) on Saturday March 24, 2018 @04:09AM (#56318033)
    If I were ever required or expected to work after hours, then that's a "thanks, but no thanks" - There are plenty of jobs out there. You want me to work in the evening? You pay me for that. The more idiots who accept to be bullied, the more bullying there will be. I consider myself lucky not have been born in the US, where it seems slavery never ended, after all
  • This goes both ways, I have always been happy to answer the odd call, slack message outside my normal hours. In a flexible work culture not everyone works the same office hours as you. It doesnâ(TM)t take much to write a quick reply and then switch off again. No big deal.

  • Does that mean New Yorkers don't have the right to put their work cellphones in the office drawer when they leave?

  • I've worked on many projects with global teams. Meetings commonly happen during work hours in different time zones.

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