Philadelphia To Prohibit Employer Questions About an Applicant’s Wage History

Orig. published Dec. 8, 2016; Updated April 16, 2017Alerts Labor & Employment Alert

UPDATED 4/16/17 (Orig. published Dec. 8, 2016)
Philadelphia will 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 is being 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.” 

Unless blocked by a court, the law will become effective on May 23, 2017 (120 days after it was signed by Mayor Jim Kenney). The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia and Comcast Corporation had urged the Mayor to veto the law on the grounds that it violates free speech protections and is otherwise unlawful.
UPDATE: The Chamber filed suit on April 6 in federal court seeking to block the law from going into effect.

The law will 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. 

Once 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.” 

For more information about this alert, please contact Steven K. Ludwig at 215.299.2164 or [email protected] or any member of the firm’s Labor & Employment Department