Legislators Seek to Curb After-Hours Work


As reported recently by the Associated Press, a New York City Council member, perhaps influenced by a recent French law, has proposed legislation to allow some employees the right to ignore after-hours communications from employers. The proposal would apply to NYC employers with 10 or more employees, and would prohibit them from requiring employees to respond to or act on after-hours telephone calls, texts, emails etc. that are not emergencies, or discipline them for failing to do so.  It would not bar employers from sending such emails, and employees could respond if they so choose. In that case, employees who are not exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act would also have to be paid straight time or overtime for that work. This proposal merits watching, particularly as NYC laws are often used as templates for statewide legislation (and as the likely-supportive Democrats have a chance to win control of the State Senate this year). 

Bill sponsor, Democrat Rafael Espinal, believes work has intruded too much into the personal lives of employees, who thereby miss out on important time to rest and connect with friends and family. Bill opponents do not believe many employers mandate significant amounts of after-hours work, that customers/clients demand after-hours contact, and that defining work "emergencies" will be too difficult to manage. 

Damages under the proposal would include lost wages and fines from between $250 and $2,500. NYC Council Committee hearings on the proposal are scheduled to begin in June 2017.