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New York considers a law to ban after hours work email

Business Insider reports that the city is working on a new law to limit after hours email expectations for employees. The bill would make it illegal to require employees to check email outside of their regular workday, with a fine for offending companies.

Requirements vs. expectations

While the law is a new angle concerning employee hours and expectations, there is precedent. France passed a similar law last year, and auto manufacturer VW turns off company email servers each night to reduce the temptation.

Temptation and uncertainty are a large part of the new law's focus, the article notes. Many companies don't insist on late night emails, but if a late message is sent, its unread status raises anxiety levels and has a negative effect on work/life balance nonetheless.

Establishing guidelines and policies

The best way to avoid legal issues between employers and employees is to reduce uncertainty. Whether an organization doesn't have an employee handbook or if the guidelines and penalties are unclear, employees feel more tension and are more likely to challenge a business when policies aren't clearly spelled out in advance.

Under existing law, for example, an hourly employee should not check work communication off the clock anyway, as they deserve overtime pay for extra hours worked. An employer who wants to limit expenses needs to clearly tell this to new hires so they don't check their email at home and then feel unnecessary pressure to respond. The New York bill, for example, has exemptions for overtime or jobs that require an "on call" scheduling system.

A guideline for every occasion

By establishing firm employee guidelines from the start, employees know what to expect and how to react to different situations. Many disputes involve basic ideas of payment, benefits and time off. Besides these fundamentals, an employee handbook should include many additional items, such as health concerns, worker safety, criminal complaints and more. Because there are so many variables that evolve as technology and culture change, it's advised to consult with an employment law firm that understands New York's unique laws so you can draft an employee handbook for every situation: one that defines policy and reduces uncertainty.

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