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Councilman Proposes Bill That Would Grant New York City Workers Right To Disconnect

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A new law proposed Thursday would make sure employees in New York City have the right to disconnect without the fear of being fired.

As CBS2's Valerie Castro reported, that means giving you a break from texting, calling or emailing when you're off the clock.

These days, work easily transcends the office doors in the form of emails and phone calls on cellphones. But New York City Councilman Rafael Espinal wants to make sure everyone can unplug after hours.

"There's a lot of New Yorkers out there that don't know when their work day begins or when their work day ends, because we're all so tied to our phones," the councilman said Thursday.

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.

"Just got home for the day. Not responding to any emails for the end of the day," Allen Griffith said, adding his construction job often comes with after-hours emails. "We work multiple shifts, so it's almost like my professional responsibility."

He said he understands the need to reach people off the clock.

"I appreciate that right. I don't know how I feel about it being a legal requirement, though," he said.

Others said it should never be an expectation.

"That's ridiculous, and maybe you should find a new employer," Jack Madnick, who works in Manhattan, said.

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

Espinal hopes the right to disconnect will be made law by the end of the year.

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