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This New York City proposed law could make checking email after work illegal
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New York lawmakers are set to consider a bill that would make it illegal for employees to access their work email after work hours. - photo by Herb Scribner
New York lawmakers will consider a bill this week that would make it illegal for employees to access their work email after work hours.

Rep. Rafael Espinal, D-New York City, introduce the bill at a City Council meeting on Thursday. He hopes that the bill will pass and give New Yorkers a chance to unplug from work after they're off the clock, NBC New York reported.

However, disconnecting from work emails would not apply in instances of overtime or in cases of emergencies, according to NBC New York.

The proposal said that the bill would also prohibit employers from taking action against employees for not responding to electronic communications, according to NBC New York.

The law would apply to employers with at least 10 workers. Should it become law, employers who violate the policy would have to pay a $500 fine for the first offense, with increasing fines after that.

Kyle Reyes, chief executive of The Silent Partner Marketing, told Fox Business that he doesn't think the law will pass.

This is a serious law, and I think that in the form that it is right now, I cant imagine that its going to pass, but stranger things have happened, he said.

He added, To pass legislation saying, You cant force your employees to check emails after hours, there are no exemptions in the way its written right now that we can see that provided exemptions for police or for medical professionals."

Last year, France passed a law that gave employees the right to disconnect, according to Fortune. The law requires companies with at least 50 employees to designate hours in which employees cant answer emails or calls from co-workers.

The goals of the law include making sure employees are fairly paid for work, and preventing burnout by protecting private time, according to Fortune.

"All the studies show there is far more work-related stress today than there used to be, and that the stress is constant," French legislator Benoit Hamon told BBC. "Employees physically leave the office, but they do not leave their work. They remain attached by a kind of electronic leash like a dog. The texts, the messages, the emails they colonise the life of the individual to the point where he or she eventually breaks down."

A 2016 study presented to the Academy of Management found that companies damage their employees well-being and work-life balance and weaken their job performance when they create expectations that work-related emails should be monitored and responded to during non-work hours.

The studys authors said that the always on culture puts high expectations on employees. Its less about the time spent using the email as much as it is about expectations to answer those emails.

"An 'always on' culture with high expectations to monitor and respond to emails during non-work time may prevent employees from ever fully disengaging from work, leading to chronic stress and emotional exhaustion," the study's authors wrote.
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