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California Proposes Legislation Mandating a Four-Day Workweek

'Employees are talking about wanting a work-life balance, wanting to be healthy mentally, physically, and emotionally,' said the bill's sponsor

A newly proposed law in California would shorten the workweek to four days for nearly one-fifth of all workers in the state. 

According to Assembly Bill 2932, the standard workweek would drop from 40 hours a week to just 32 hours. In addition, companies would not be able to reduce how much workers earn.

The bill would specifically affect companies with more than 500 employees. The measure would require employers to pay overtime to those working more than four days a week.

According to California’s Employment Development Department, if the bill passes, nearly 2600 employers will be affected. Data from the agency identifies the employers impacted by the bill’s criteria for the changes. 

Opponents, including the California Chamber of Commerce, argue it would increase labor costs and kill job growth when businesses are recovering from the pandemic and face higher prices for supplies.

Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia introduced the bill in the Assembly. 

“Employees are not asking for games or free food or free coffee, those were some of the perks we saw before, especially in Silicon Valley,” Garcia told the Sacramento Bee“Employees are talking about wanting a work-life balance, wanting to be healthy mentally, physically, and emotionally. And a four-day workweek is part of that discussion.”

“I think the labor shortage is not about people not wanting to work, but they want a better balance,” she added. 

Todd Scherwin, managing partner for the labor and employment firm Fisher Phillips, said, “I really am not sure that, for the majority of workforces, this is going to mean people are going to be working four days a week. I think for the majority of these workforces where you need people to work five days a week, this is going to increase wages, to increase costs.”

A four-day workweek has been considered before. Richard Nixon said he thought a four-day workweek was in the “not too distant future.” In 1977, former President Jimmy Carter suggested a shorter workweek could save energy for companies amid an oil crisis. However, the high unemployment and economic inflation of the 70s and ’80s ended their ideas of a shorter workweek. 

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