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Amendment to Philadelphia's Fair Practices Ordinance Bars Employers from Inquiring About a Prospective Employee's Wage History

On January 23, 2017, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney signed into law an amendment to the Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance that prohibits employers from inquiring about a prospective employee’s wage history. A copy of the amendment can be accessed here.

In addition to banning employers from inquiring about salary history, the amendment forbids employers from requiring disclosure of wage history or conditioning employment or an interview on disclosure of wage history. Unless an applicant “knowingly and willingly” discloses his or her wage history to an employer, that employer cannot rely on wage history “in determining the wages” for the applicant.  This includes during the negotiation or drafting of “any employment contract.” The law carves out any actions taken pursuant to federal, state or local law that specifically authorized disclosure or verification of wage history for employment purposes.

The Ordinance prohibits retaliation against a prospective employee for failing to comply with any wage history inquiry or opposing conduct made unlawful by the Ordinance.

Findings accompanying the law state that “[s]ince women are paid on average lower wages than men, basing wages upon a worker’s wage at a previous job only serves to perpetuate gender wage inequalities.” Rather, the findings state, “[s]alary offers should be based upon the job responsibilities of the position sought and not based upon the prior wages earned by the applicant.”

Philadelphia is the first major city to enact such legislation, which comes on the heels of a similar statute passed in Massachusetts in August 2016. The Massachusetts law, which is not set to take effect until 2018, prohibits employers from seeking information regarding an applicant’s salary history, although it does permit a prospective employer to seek or confirm a prospective employee’s wage or salary history after an offer of employment with compensation has been negotiated and made to the prospective employee.

The Ordinance takes effect on May 23, 2017. In advance of its effective date, employers in Philadelphia should remove any questions about prior salary history from all employment applications and train recruiters and hiring managers on the changes to the law in Philadelphia.

For information on the amendment to the Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance, please contact Andrea M. Kirshenbaum at 215-587-1126, or akirshenbaum@postschell.com, or any member of Post & Schell’s Employment & Employee Relations Practice Group.

About the Author

Andrea M. Kirshenbaum is the Chair of the Firm's Employment and Labor Practice Group and its related Practice Groups, Employment and Collective Class Actions, Employment & Employee Relations, Labor, Trade Secret & Non Compete Law, and Wage and Hour. She is also a member of the Firm's Appellate Department. She defends employers nationally in federal and state court litigation involving all major employment statutes, represents them in related government investigations, and counsels them proactively on compliance with these statutes.

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