Emails can simultaneously be considered a tremendous leap in business efficiency, as well as the bane of many employees’ existence. In December, the French government took action to untie employees from their cell phones and laptop computers outside of work. The new legislation, dubbed “right to disconnect,” protects certain employees who refuse to answer work emails or other communications outside of regular working hours.
Similar laws have been proposed in other EU countries. While sold as a way to reduce workplace stress, the new law caused some French employers to bemoan the loss of flexibility and competitiveness compared to non-French companies. There is little chance of similar laws being enacted in the United States anytime soon. However, employers that require or permit non-exempt employees to regularly send or answer electronic communications outside of regular working hours must pay those employees for the time spent on their phones. Anything more than de minimis communications (say five minutes per day) must be recorded and paid as working time.