Right to Disconnect law in California aims to end 24/7 app demands

Right to Disconnect law in California aims to end 24/7 app demands

A Right to Disconnect law introduced by a Californian lawmaker aims to end the tyranny of employers who expect their staff to respond 24/7 to emails, Slack alerts, text messages, and other out-of-hours notifications.

It mirrors similar laws already passed in several European countries …

Right to Disconnect laws

The tech industry in particular has a reputation for expecting workers to be ‘always on,’ able to be reached outside their working hours, and irrespective of whether they may be at home or even on vacation. Apple is known for this.

France was the first country to pass a ‘right to disconnect’ law, back in 2016. It provided employees with the legal right to ignore work emails sent to them outside of their normal working hours.

Italy did the same thing in 2017; Spain in 2018; Portugal in 2021; and Ireland likewise. 

California law proposed

The San Francisco Standard (via Engadget) reports on the planned Californian version.

State Assemblymember Matt Haney, who represents San Francisco, has introduced AB 2751, which introduces a so-called “right to disconnect” by ignoring calls, emails and texts sent after agreed-upon working hours.

“I do think it’s fitting that California, which has created many of these technologies, is also the state that introduces how we make it sustainable and update our protections for the times we live in and the world we’ve created,” Haney told The Standard. (Slack is based in SoMa on Howard Street.)

Companies would still be allowed to demand round-the-clock availability if required – for example, as Apple gets close to a product launch deadline or iOS update – but they would need to explicitly specify the details of such expectations in employment contracts.

Every company in California would need to put in place an agreed policy, together with an action plan on how it will be implemented and communicated to employees.

Ironically, the law could give Apple a reason to adopt a less union-hostile stance.

Collectively bargained employment agreements like union contracts would supersede the right to disconnect.

The next stage will be for the proposed new law – currently referred to as AB 2751 – to be debated by the Assembly Labor Committee. If passed, it would be the first such law in the US.

Digital calming

I’ve previously advocated for implementing our own approaches to digital disconnection, or digital calming.

I first tried this myself back in 2018; noted in 2022 that it was one of the best things I’ve ever done with my tech; and continue to do it today.

I’ve since added in a new element: I begin each morning with a screen-free period of 10-20 minutes with my first cup of tea or coffee. I also keep this time free from other distractions, like music, enjoying it as a moment of peace at the start of the day.

My colleague Bradley Chambers has also advocated for an Enterprise Screen Time API to facilitate digital disconnection by employees.

Photo by Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash

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