Empowering Employees: A Legal Analysis of California’s “Right to Disconnect” Legislation



In the dynamic realm of employment law, California continues to spearhead progressive initiatives aimed at fortifying the rights of workers. Assembly Bill 2751, championed by Assemblymember Matt Haney of San Francisco, stands as a pioneering effort to institute a “right to disconnect” for employees, shielding them from unwarranted encroachments into their personal time by employers.

Defining the “Right to Disconnect”

At its core, AB 2751 seeks to demarcate distinct boundaries between professional obligations and personal life, addressing the pervasive challenge posed by the ubiquitous presence of technology in the contemporary workplace. The bill proposes an amendment to the California Labor Code, introducing Section 1198.2 to enshrine the right to disconnect into state law.

Establishing Clear Boundaries

Central to AB 2751 is the acknowledgment that employees should not be beholden to work-related demands beyond their designated working hours. The legislation mandates that both public and private employers craft and implement comprehensive workplace policies, affording employees the explicit right to disregard communications from their employer during nonworking hours, barring emergencies or unforeseen scheduling alterations.

Negotiating Nonworking Hours

Employers are tasked with delineating nonworking hours through formal written agreements with their employees, establishing a framework for communication expectations outside of standard work hours. This provision serves to mitigate ambiguity and foster mutual understanding regarding employees’ availability during their personal time.

Exceptional Circumstances

While AB 2751 upholds the principle of the right to disconnect, it recognizes the occasional necessity for employer-employee communication outside of regular working hours. The bill outlines two narrowly defined exceptions, permitting employers to contact employees in cases of genuine emergencies or exigent scheduling modifications occurring within 24 hours of a scheduled shift.

Enforcement Mechanisms

AB 2751 incorporates robust enforcement mechanisms to ensure adherence to the right to disconnect. Employers found in repeated violation of this right would face penalties, with employees empowered to lodge complaints with the California Labor Commissioner. Such violations could result in significant civil penalties, underscoring the gravity with which the state regards the protection of employees’ personal time.

Navigating Opposition and Support

Despite its noble intent, AB 2751 has encountered opposition from certain quarters, particularly within startup communities and industries reliant on continuous operations. Critics express apprehensions regarding potential impacts on productivity and operational flexibility. However, proponents contend that prioritizing employee well-being ultimately fosters a more resilient and productive workforce over the long term.

Implications and Future Outlook

As AB 2751 advances through the legislative process, stakeholders will scrutinize its provisions and ramifications for employers and employees alike. Should the bill garner sufficient support and receive gubernatorial approval, it will undoubtedly reshape employment practices in California, serving as a model for other jurisdictions seeking to prioritize work-life balance and safeguard employee rights.


Assembly Bill 2751 represents a landmark endeavor to empower employees and reclaim autonomy over their personal time in the face of incessant technological encroachment. By codifying the right to disconnect into law, California reaffirms its commitment to fostering a healthy work-life balance and ensuring that the exigencies of the modern workplace do not infringe upon the well-being of its workforce.