Illegal Email After Hours

There was a bill introduced into New York City council this year (the “Right to Disconnect” Bill) that would make it illegal not to send email after hours, but to require employees to respond do it after hours.

“There is no line in the sand that separates the normal work hours from personal time because of technology,” Espinal told Moneyish following the City Council hearing Thursday morning. “We live with an always-on mentality because we believe that that’s what’s expected from us from our job. That can lead to exploitation of workers. Technology has aggressively advanced over the past 15 years with email and smartphone, but regulations and laws haven’t caught up with it.”

I don’t even know what to think about that. I’m just not caught up enough with this kind of politics. You can already force salaried employees to work basically unlimited hours already right? So that seems like a bigger fish to fry than something specifically email related. But maybe it’s useful for individual cities like this to set precedents? France already has a law like this, so there is international precedent.

Fighting against the “always on” mentality seems like a good goal, but apparently it’s a tricky line to walk, as it can also cause harm of a certain type:

Not checking work emails after hours may sound like a welcome relief from the 24/7 work culture where managers expect their subordinates to be hooked up to their smartphone at all hours, but banning employees altogether from email during certain hours can backfire, new research suggests.

Anxiety-prone workers who aren’t allowed to access work email on weekends and after hours could experience a decline in their well-being, a recent study from the University of Sussex published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior found.

Some part of me thinks employees can take matters like this into their own hands and just not respond to emails (or communication of any kind) during agreed upon off-hours. But another part of me must admit that’s a bit naive, as many employers will take whatever they can legally get from workers and the only thing capable of stopping it is legislation.

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