Proposed NYC Law Helps Reset Boundaries for a Good Work/Life Balance

By Douglas Lipsky

Although for some the standard of a 9-5 work day still rings true, a large number of employees are now finding it more and more difficult to unplug after they leave the office. From refreshing emails to making phone calls, work is no longer left at, well…work. This holds true for some individuals even on vacation. According to a Workplace Options survey, over half of all American workers (59%) say that they continue to use their mobile phone for work purposes after they leave work for the day. Now ironically, the “city that never sleeps” is looking for a way to unwind.

Recently, New York City Councilman, Rafael Espinal, Jr., proposed the “right to disconnect” bill, which would make it illegal for an employer with at least 10 employees to demand that his or her employees check or answer emails, phone calls, text messages, or other work communications after normal work hours. “So many of us are glued to our smartphones and our computers, it’s important to understand that we don’t have to feel as if our work has to spill into our personal lives,” said Espinal. He got the idea from a law that was passed in France in 2017. “In New York City and in this country, the conversation is worth having. Especially where the wages have stayed stagnant and workers are expected to produce more [and] they’re not being compensated for being available 24 hours a day.”

NYC Beats Out Other Top Largest U.S. Cities for Longest Hours

According to a 2015 report from the office of the New York City comptroller, New York City leads the way for the highest average combined number of hours worked and commuted each week. This doesn’t even take into account time worked outside of the office after hours. Espinal blames much of the work time overload on society’s advancements in communication. “I think that because of technology, the lines have been blurred on when the work day begins and when the work day ends, and there are employers who take advantage of that fact.”

This does not mean that employers are forbidden from sending work-related communications after hours, but rather that they are not permitted to retaliate against any employees who are not responsive to them. Those who violate this law would be on the hook for a $500 first offense fine, which would continue to increase each time. The mere fact that the law grants protection to employees will make business owners think twice before mistreating or harassing them in a retaliatory manner.

What Can Overworking do to us?

When employees are not provided the opportunity to “unplug” from work, there are many negative potential results. Without disconnecting, they face a chance of burnout and stress. They also experience lower levels of job satisfaction and decreased work performance. Not only does a lack of work-life balance take its toll on your ability to do your job, but it can have a big impact on their mental and emotional wellbeing as well. By allowing employees to take a break from it all, they get more sleep, are happier, and ultimately end up being more productive for the company. It should be really interesting to see how this plays out and whether it will become an example for the rest of the country to follow. If you feel that you are not receiving the proper compensation for work that is being done outside of the standard work time, contact Lipsky Lowe, LLP today. The employment law attorneys at Lipsky Lowe, LLP are well-versed in unpaid wages claims are will fight to get you the compensation you deserve.

About the Author
Douglas Lipsky is a co-founding partner of Lipsky Lowe LLP. He has extensive experience in all areas of employment law, including discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environment, retaliation, wrongful discharge, breach of contract, unpaid overtime, and unpaid tips. He also represents clients in complex wage and hour claims, including collective actions under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and class actions under the laws of many different states. If you have questions about this article, contact Douglas today.