French Say 'Adieu' to Pesky Calls From Boss

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That modern intrusion into after-hours life, the cell phone call from the boss, is now officially unacceptable in France.

The country, already famous for its worker-friendly rules and regulations, has found that cell phones have enabled bosses to make serious inroads into the leisure hours of some of their employees.

A new agreement among labor unions and employers' federations, aimed squarely at white-collar employees of technology and internet companies, reportedly mandates that executive-level employees shut off their work phones at 6 p.m., so they aren't tempted to bother their staff at inconvenient hours.

Employees also are required to resist the temptation to look at work-related documents on their computers or phones after work hours, according to a report in The Guardian newspaper.

However, the precise extent and power of the agreement has been questioned since that initial report in the British newspaper. On Friday, a writer for LinkedIn, citing the French-language version of Slate.com, said there were many inaccuracies in the report, reflecting the usual British and American stereotype of French people as Gauloise-puffing sybarites.

In short, the report says that the agreement does not ban anyone from sending email after 6 p.m. or at any other time. It simply protects certain employees from retaliation if they do not read their emails outside working hours.

The distinction may well escape some hag-ridden British and American workers, who are trained like seals to respond to work emails at any time of day or night.

The agreement protects the integrity of the famous 35-hour work week that has been the law in France since 1999.

Naturally, employees of foreign companies in France are covered, so nuts to the driven Paris-based employees of Google, Facebook and other big American technology companies, who will now be have to let their employees off the chain tout de suite.

In fact, the agreement was initiated by unions representing mostly white-collar management workers in the technical and digital sectors, where the on-call lifestyle is considered the norm.

If you think such a concern is peculiar to France, think again: Germany did it first. Earlier this month, Germany's labor ministry banned managers from calling or emailing their staffers out of work hours, except in emergencies.

Some of the country's more enlightened bosses, including Volkswagen and Deutsche Telekom, had already voluntarily set that as a rule.

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