Unless the text is an emergency or a schedule change, soon employers could get fined for texting employees after hours. 

We’ve all done it – you have a schedule to cover, or an emergency that you need to address before the next work day, so (even though you don’t want to) – you’ve got to text an employee after hours.


It’s better to be communicative, right? And after-hours communication has become more common with the advent of applications like Slack, Google Chat, Microsoft Teams, and of course, texts.


Mobile phones especially help us to stay connected, including with our colleagues and employees. However, if a new California bill becomes law, in the future you may think twice before you send that text or chat.


The ‘Right to Disconnect’

A proposed bill currently in the California state Assembly’s Committee on Labor and Employment office would lawfully give employees a ‘right to disconnect’ – and provide legal protection for workers who want to ignore work-related communication when they’re not on the clock.


Sponsored by assembly member Matt Haney (D) from San Francisco, a new California bill that could fine bosses for texting their employees after work hours. The law is similar to ones currently on the books in Belgium, Spain and France.


If this bill passes, employers would be fined no less than $100 if found to be violating the terms of the written agreement. (The proposed bill would require employers to enter into a written agreement with staff that would determine the employees’ non-working hours.) Provided, that an employee can provide proper documentation when filing a complaint with the state Labor Commissioner’s Office showing the employer violated the terms by repeatedly attempting to contact them at (least 3 times) during the agreed-upon non-working hours and for non-emergency-related purposes.


This would allow employees to work a more rigid schedule without continued communication with their manager unless it was absolutely necessary.


Employers can contact staff after working hours in the event of an emergency, however. As the bill (AB2751) defines an emergency as: “an unforeseen situation that threatens an employee, customer, or the public; disrupts or shuts down operations; or causes physical or environmental damage.”


The law could be both good and bad for both employees and employers – as neither an employee or employer want to get/or give urgent news as they show up to work. In an age when we’re all glued to our phones, and the ability to send a message or text is only a few taps away – sometimes the urgency of business can’t wait. You can track the progress of AB 2751 here.


Setting Guidelines for After Hours Communication

Currently, there are systems in place that help prevent bosses from trying to communicate with their employees after hours. These include overtime pay, breaks for rests and meals, and on-call standby pay. And why it’s important to have boundaries around your employee relationships and defined operational procedures outlined in company handbooks, so employees understand your expectations as an employer.


Smart operators have standards and guidelines which clearly outline that workers should not to read or respond to emails or texts while off the clock. Here are some other tips that can help you set policy around this:


  • If you see managers respond on work group chats like WhatsApp, immediately send reminders out to please not respond on their day off.


  • Outline your policy in company handbooks and post it on employee bulletin areas – at all times.


  • Include a reminder in monthly meetings so it is noted in meeting notes, and reinforces that you are constantly reminding employees of the policy.


Need help developing your after work hours communication policy? EyeSpy has operational development plans that support healthy work environments and creates a positive work culture. Give us a call or email us for more information.


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