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The Impact of New “Right to Disconnect” California Bill 

woman working on a laptop

California is examining legislation that would allow nearly all employees to disconnect from their employer during non-working hours. If passed, the bill would be the first in the United States. 

Here is what employers need to know.

Requirement of New Proposed Bill, AB 2751

Employers of all sizes would have to adopt a workplace policy allowing employees to ignore the majority of employer communications that occur outside their working hours. 

The only way employers would be allowed to contact their employees outside of working hours would be if an emergency (which is defined as an unexpected event) occurs and disrupts operations, damages the environment, threatens customers and employees, or if there is a schedule change that will impact the next 24 hours.

Something to note is that the bill doesn’t distinguish between salaried exempt and non-exempt employees; thus, it seems to apply to both. However, it does not apply to employees covered under a collective bargaining contract.

The Labor Commissioner can fine employers if they engage in a pattern of violations.

Potential Impacts of Bill

California has already passed laws limiting how employers can communicate with their non-exempt workers outside of normal working hours. 

Existing laws define the hours worked and require employers to pay daily or weekly overtime, as well as pay for on-call or standby time. They also pay for reporting times in certain circumstances, such as when employees are sent home because of slow business.

AB 2751 does not only fail to consider existing labor laws, but it also presents unique challenges to employers and businesses. For example, this bill poses challenges for businesses and industries who do not work within the traditional hours. 

What Employers Can Do Right Now

There is a great opportunity to look more closely at how employers communicate with employees. 

Discuss ways to establish a healthy work environment with clear boundaries without losing track of your company’s or client’s needs. Whether or not AB 2751 becomes law, you might want to adopt a policy that allows employees to disconnect if they want to.