New York City Council Proposes Bill Which Would Allow Employees to Disconnect From Electronic Communications During Non-Work Hours

The New York City Council has proposed a bill which would amend the New York City charter and the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to private employees disconnecting from electronic communications during non-work hours. The bill would make it unlawful for any private New York City employer with 10 or more employees to require an employee to access work-related electronic communications outside of the employee’s usual work hours (not including overtime), with the exception of cases of emergency.

In addition, it would require employers to adopt a written policy regarding the use of electronic devices by employees to send or receive emails, text messages, or any other digital, work-related communication, during non-work hours. The policy must include: (i) The usual work hours for each class of employees of the employer; and (ii) The categories of paid time off, including, but not limited to, vacation days, personal days and sick days to which employees are entitled. Use of paid time off would be considered non-work hours.

The bill also requires that an employer provide any new employee at the commencement of employment or any existing employee within thirty days of the effective date of the law, with written notice of the employee’s right to disconnect, including the right to be free from retaliation and to bring a complaint. The notice must be in English and the primary language spoken by that employee. Employers would have the option of conspicuously posting the notice at the employer’s place of business in an area accessible to employees, instead of providing each employee with the notice.

Any employer found to be in violation will be liable for a civil fine of up to $500 for the first violation, up to $750 for the second violation and up to $1,000 for each succeeding violation.

Should the bill be signed into law, it will take effect 120 days after its enactment. We will continue to keep you apprised of the developments of this bill.