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Professor Paul Secunda
Marquette University Law School

U.S. workers are increasingly finding it difficult to escape from work. Through their smartphones, email, and social media, work tethers them to their workstations well after the work day has ended. Whether at home or in transit, employers are asking or requiring employees to complete assignments, tasks, and projects outside of working hours. This practice has a profound detrimental impact on employee privacy and autonomy, safety and health, productivity and compensation, and rest and leisure. France and Germany have responded to this emerging workplace issue by taking different legal approaches to providing their employees a right to disconnect from the workplace. Although both the French legislative and German corporate self-regulation models have their advantages, this paper puts forth a hybrid approach using existing U.S. safety and health law under OSHA to respond to this employee disconnection problem. Initially under the general duty of clause of OSHA, and then under OSHA permanent standards and variances, this article provides a uniquely American approach to establishing an employee right to disconnect from work.

Professor Secunda teaches employee benefits law, labour law, employment discrimination law, and employment law. He is also the founder and former faculty advisor of the Marquette Benefits and Social Welfare Law Review, which began publication in 2015. Professor Secunda is the faculty advisor for the student-run Marquette University Labor and Employment Law Society (LELS). Former U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis appointed Professor Secunda to a three-year term on the U.S. Department of Labor’s ERISA (employee benefits law) Advisory Council, effective January 2013. Former Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez appointed him to serve as the Chairman of the Council for calendar year 2015. He was recently elected in 2018 as a fellow of the American College of Employee Benefits Counsel. Professor Secunda received the Senior Fulbright Scholar Award for 2015-2016 to study Australian workplace retirement law (superannuation) at Melboure University Law School.

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