July 12, 2020

Volume X, Number 194

July 10, 2020

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July 09, 2020

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Philadelphia City Council Passes Bill Prohibiting Employers from Retaliating Against Workers for Speaking Out About COVID-19 Safety Violations

In advance of Philadelphia entering the “green” phase and many businesses reopening, the Philadelphia City Council unanimously passed the Essential Workers Protection Act (Bill No. 200328) on June 25 and was signed by Mayor Jim Kenney on June 26, 2020.

For purposes of this Act, introduced by City Councilwoman Helen Gym, essential workers are employees who work in the health care, food service, public transportation, and hospitality industries. Philadelphia employers will be barred from retaliating against essential workers who voice concerns regarding working conditions that potentially expose them to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) or those conditions that would violate any mandatory public health orders issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Health or the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.

Specifically, the Essential Workers Protection Act prohibits retaliation of any kind, including, for example, a reduction in pay, an adverse change in working hours, termination, refusal to employ, or threats pertaining to an individual’s perceived immigration status for “both the disclosure of information related to employer non-compliance” and for “refusal to work under unsafe conditions caused by non-compliance” with emergency health orders and regulations related to COVID-19 and the public health.

The Essential Workers Protection Act’s sponsors claim that Philadelphia is the first city in the United States to pass legislation providing a municipality the ability to implement compliance measures that ensure businesses abide by state and local public health guidelines. Philadelphia’s newest agency, the Department of Labor, recently approved by ballot referendum earlier this month, will be tasked with enforcing the Act.

Employees who bring an action against their employer for a violation of the bill may seek civil penalties of $100 to $1,000 on behalf of the City of Philadelphia for each day in which a violation occurs, and, if the employee prevails, a court of competent jurisdiction is empowered to award reinstatement, full restitution, and reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.

©2020 Greenberg Traurig, LLP. All rights reserved. National Law Review, Volume X, Number 181


About this Author

Kelly Dobbs Bunting, Greenberg Traurig Law Firm, Philadelphia, Labor and Employment Litigation Attorney

Kelly Bunting is Co-Chair of the firm’s Labor & Employment Practice’s Workforce Compliance & Regulatory Enforcement group. She litigates federal and state class and collective actions alleging wage and hour violations, misclassification, overtime, minimum wage and off-the-clock work. She also defends employers around the country in single plaintiff litigation involving gender, age, disability, race, national origin, religious and pregnancy discrimination, harassment and retaliation; whistleblower claims; theft of trade secrets; breach of duty; breach of...

Kevin Greenberg Governmental Attorney Greenberg Traurig

Kevin Greenberg focuses his practice on administrative law, government-related matters, emerging companies, technology, development and regulated companies and entities. A former government lawyer with more than a decade back in private practice, Kevin counsels private and publicly owned companies on state and local regulatory, legal, and policy matters with a focus on the clients strategic objectives and provides advice on matters that will enhance their business opportunities in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania. Kevin also regularly works with a wide range of clients on their compliance matters, ranging from lobbyists and government contractors to elected officials and candidates. He has deep relationships across Pennsylvania and in Washington and has served on transition committees for state and local officials, including the efforts of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf.

With two decades of experience as a transactional lawyer including service as a general counsel for a software company with government contracts, Kevin also regularly counsels businesses in corporate and real estate transactions and serves as outside general counsel for several clients. In real estate, he has been involved in brownfields, urban expansion, tax credit projects, and has represented a wide range of market participants from tenants and small developers to some of the nation’s largest property owners and housing authorities. Kevin’s technology practice ranges from his representation of leading research institutions and start-up companies.

Sarah Goodman, Greenberg Traurig Law Firm, Philadelphia, Labor and Employment Attorney

Sarah R. Goodman represents employers against allegations of discrimination, harassment and retaliation in state and federal courts. Sarah counsels both public and private employers on workplace matters including hiring, discipline, discharge, disability accommodations and policy development.


  • Discrimination claims

  • Employee training on Title VII

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act

  • The Age...