On January 23, 2017, Philadelphia became the first major city in the United States to ban employers from asking job applicants about their salary history.
Philadelphia Bill No. 160840, the “wage equity ordinance,” which was unanimously passed by the Philadelphia City Council 16-0 and later signed by Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, makes it illegal for employers to ask about a job applicant’s wage history at any stage of the hiring process, as well as unlawful for employers to retaliate against applicants who decline to provide wage history information. Job applicants remain free to voluntarily disclose this information. If, however, the employer came upon the wage history information by other means, it cannot be considered. Employers have 120 days to comply, as the bill takes effect May 23, 2017.
The Philadelphia Human Relations Commission will oversee violations of the law. The Commission may issue injunctions and require employers to pay damages for violations, including compensatory damages, attorney’s fees, and punitive damages in the amount of up to $2,000 per violation. Complainants also will have the right to file a private action in court.
Notably, Mayor Kenney’s signing of the bill came amid companies claiming that they would challenge the bill if the mayor signed it. Opponents claimed the new law would violate employers’ First Amendment rights to ask about wage history.
Bans on salary history inquiries are a growing trend and employers should take note. This past summer, Massachusetts became the first state to pass such a ban, with the Massachusetts Pay Equity Act scheduled to take effect in 2018. Therefore, employers outside of Philadelphia should keep a close watch on how this new ordinance is received in Philadelphia because similar laws could be suggested in other parts of the state or country.
Tammy Lamary-Toman, JD, PHR is vice president and employment counsel for the Manufacturer & Business Association. Contact her at 814/833-3200, 800/815-2660 or