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Philadelphia’s Attempt To Prohibit Employer Questions About An Applicant’s Wage History Is Temporarily Blocked While Court Considers Challenge

April 20, 2017Alerts Labor & Employment Alert

Philadelphia may become the first city to ban employers from asking about the wage history of job applicants, an action with a goal of advancing wage equity. 

The Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance was amended to make it an unlawful employment practice for an employer or employment agency to inquire about a prospective employee’s wage history, to require disclosure of wage history, or to condition employment or consideration for an interview on the disclosure of an applicant’s wage history.  In addition, the law prohibits retaliation against a prospective employee for failing to comply with any wage history inquiry or otherwise asserting her or his rights under the new law. 

The law also prohibits reliance on wage history in determining the wages to be paid or offered to a prospective employee unless the applicant “knowingly and willingly disclosed his or her wage history.” The only exception is where another law “specifically authorizes the disclosure or verification of wage history for employment purposes.” 

The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia and Comcast Corporation had urged  Mayor Jim Kenney to veto the law on the grounds that it violates free speech protections and is otherwise unlawful. The Chamber filed suit on April 6th in federal court seeking to block the law from going into effect. As a result, the law will not go into effect until the court rules on the Chamber’s challenge.

The law would be enforced by the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations which is authorized to seek substantial fines and criminal penalties. In addition, an aggrieved person can file a private suit seeking compensatory damages, punitive damages, counsel fees, court costs and other equitable relief. 

If the law becomes effective, the Commission should be amending its poster listing unlawful employment practices which employers are required to post and exhibit prominently “in any place of business where employment is carried on.”