December 3, 2022

Volume XII, Number 337

Advertisement

December 02, 2022

Subscribe to Latest Legal News and Analysis

December 01, 2022

Subscribe to Latest Legal News and Analysis
Advertisement

Philadelphia Empowers Agency to Shut Down Discriminating Businesses

Businesses in the “City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection” must now take this slogan seriously, ensuring no discrimination against patrons, or risk being shut down.

Public outcry over alleged discrimination by Philadelphia bars and restaurants toward LGBT people of color, including a videotaped incident in which a bar owner repeatedly used a racial slur, prompted the introduction of a bill to further penalize discriminating businesses. On May 17, Mayor Jim Kenney signed Bill 170344 into law, thereby amending the Fair Practice Ordinance of the Philadelphia Code, which prohibits businesses from discriminating on the basis of race, ethnicity, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, disability, marital status, familial status, genetic information, or domestic or sexual violence.

The law, which became effective immediately, empowers the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (PCHR), the city agency that enforces antidiscrimination laws, to order a business to “cease its business operations in the City for a specified period of time” if the PCHR finds that the business has “engaged in severe or repeated violations” of the Fair Practices Ordinance “without effective efforts to remediate the violations.” While the PCHR has always had the power to order violators to cease and desist from unlawful practices, issue injunctive or other equitable relief, and award monetary damages, this new remedy could have an even greater impact on an offending business depending on how long it must cease operations. Unfortunately for businesses, the law fails to define what constitutes “severe or repeated” violations or “effective efforts to remediate the violations,” or to specify the length of the potential shutdown period.

The PCHR is expected to enact regulations to resolve these ambiguities, and PCHR Executive Director Rue Landau has indicated that this enforcement mechanism would be used only under egregious circumstances and after a full hearing by the PCHR. In the meantime, employers are left to guess at their compliance obligations and the risks associated with noncompliance. What is clear, however, is that businesses must remain vigilant of their equal treatment of both patrons and employees to avoid potential disruption of their operations.

Copyright © 2022 by Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP. All Rights Reserved.National Law Review, Volume VII, Number 180
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

About this Author

Anne Martinez, Morgan Lewis Law Firm, Labor and Employment Attorney
Of Counsel

Anne E. Martinez counsels employers on labor and employment law issues. These include matters before US federal and state trial courts, as well as administrative agencies. She advises clients on reductions in force, decisions regarding adverse employment actions, litigation avoidance, compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requirements, and compliance with state wage and hour, and wage payment requirements. Additionally, she conducts internal wage and hour audits to help employers properly classify employees as exempt or nonexempt.

215-963-5718
Michael Ossip, Morgan Lewis, litigation attorney
Partner

Michael J. Ossip exclusively represents management in all facets of employee relations, including litigating employment discrimination and wrongful discharge claims in US federal and state courts. He has tried numerous jury and nonjury cases to verdict. Michael represents employers before federal, state, and local administrative agencies and advises on labor, employment, and trade secret matters. He previously served as Morgan Lewis’s general counsel and the firm’s in-house employment counsel.

215-963-5761
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement