Upon the City Council’s unanimous passing of the Wage Equity Law in April 2017, Philadelphia became the first city in the United States to make it unlawful for employers to ask job applicants about their salary history as a condition of employment, or to retaliate against a prospective employee for refusing to answer questions about previous salaries. (Massachusetts and New York City also passed similar bills that have not yet been implemented). Under the new statute, job applicants who suspect a violation may file a complaint with the city Commission on Human Relations within 300 days. Those employers found to be in violation of the law by the CHR could be fined $2,000 and ordered to pay other damages, including legal fees.
The controversial new statute has already prompted litigation. Supporters of the law, including Mayor Jim Kenney, claim that it will help close the gender pay gap by preventing the carrying-over of past pay discrimination to new positions. Opponents, including business groups and companies like Comcast, argue that the regulation is harmful to business and that there is no evidence to support its proposed effects of a reduction in the pay gap.
The Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce contends that the law violates employers’ free speech rights and places improper, unnecessary restrictions on interstate commerce. The Chamber moved for a preliminary injunction to temporarily block the law from being implemented in April, but U.S. District Judge Mitchell Goldberg dismissed the case for lack of standing. The Chamber filed again in June, this time identifying several specific members whose rights it claims would be violated by the law, including Comcast, Drexel University, Day & Zimmermann, and a children’s hospital, among others. The implementation of the law, which was supposed to go into effect May 23rd, is now on hold; its status resting on whether Judge Goldberg decides to temporarily block the law. Whether the Wage Equity Law survives court scrutiny and on what grounds is yet to be seen.
See Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia v. City of Philadelphia, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, No. 17-cv-1548.
For more information, contact our Philadelphia wage dispute lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green at 215-574-0600 or contact us online.