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City Council Sets Thursday Hearings For 'Right To Disconnect' Bill

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – If you spend too much time on your phone because of work, change could be on the horizon in New York CIty.

A new proposal that would ensure private employees in New York City have the right to disconnect from work is set for a hearing Thursday.


The law aims to give workers a break from texting, calling or emailing when off the clock.

New York City Councilman Rafael Espinal wants to make sure everyone can unplug after hours.

With the hustle and bustle of New York City, from the sidewalk to Penn Station, many people are constantly checking their cell phones.

"Every half hour, always," said Merrick resident Abe Klein.

Klein works in the clothing industy, but he knows he's not alone.

"They bother you after your work hours. It's not fair they do such things," Klein told CBS2's Jenna DeAngelis.

So he supports Espinal's bill.

"I think it would lower the stress level of people, and more put people toward their families," he said.

"We're living in a society where we're living to work, not working to live," Espinal said.

"This simply will give the employee the right to disconnect without fear their bosses are going to fire them or cut their pay," Espinal said. "An employer can still call the employee. What this simply does is allow the employee at that moment to decide if that phone call is more important than their personal time."

Espinal's proposed law would make it illegal for a company to require employees to access work email and other communications outside the office. It would apply to regular time off, sick days and vacation time, and covers all employers with 10 or more workers.

"You can still work, you can still talk to your boss, but this just is saying that, when you feel like you've hit your boiling point and you can't do it anymore, you're able to disconnect and decompress for a while," he said.

Employees feeling abused outside of work hours would be able to file a complaint through 311. If a violation is found, the employer would pay a city fine of $250 and an additional fine that would be given to the employee of $500.

Not everyone is on board with the bill.

"If I choose not to, it's between myself, coworkers, my business associates, my personal friends and family," said David Silverstein, who works with a human resources recruitment firm.

"If you're doing your thing, on vacation, living your life, yeah, you should have the right to be free from work," said John Vorneige.

"It's a tough thing to say, especially in New York City where everybody is not completely off from work," said David Arroyave.

There would be exceptions for jobs that require employees to be on call 24 hours a day.

The hearing this Thursday is the first step in the legislative process, so there's no timeline if and when it would pass.

Espinal says getting the bill passed this year is one of his top priorities.


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