The Boss Is Calling Late. Should the Law Let You Ignore It?

Few places have done more than the Bay Area — the center of the smartphone industry — to ensure that bosses can call, text or Slack their workers all the time, nights and weekends included.

But a San Francisco lawmaker wants to help curb the constant ringing and pinging that his region helped create. New legislation from Assemblyman Matt Haney would make his state the first in the country to give employees the legal right to hit the ignore button on their phones when the boss calls after hours. Emails, texts and other work communication could also be put off until workers are back on the clock.

Mr. Haney, a Democrat, got the idea from Australia’s new “right to disconnect” law, to be implemented later this year. It will allow workers to reject “unreasonable” professional communication outside of their regular workday. The idea originated in France and has spread in various forms to countries including Canada, Italy, Belgium and the Philippines. New York City debated a similar proposal in 2018, but didn’t adopt it.

Remote work, which the coronavirus pandemic helped to normalize for many workers, can make it more difficult to put a firm stop to the workday, Mr. Haney said.

“People now find themselves always on and never off,” he said. “There’s an availability creep that has reached into many people’s lives, and I think it’s not a positive thing for people’s happiness, for their well-being, or even for work productivity.”

Assemblyman Matt Haney has introduced legislation that would make his state the first in the country to give employees a “right to disconnect.”Credit…Lea Suzuki/San Francisco Chronicle, via Associated Press
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