May 26, 2019

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Philadelphia Wage Equity Ordinance On Hold … For Now

Earlier this year, Philadelphia became the first city to pass a law prohibiting employers from inquiring about a job applicant’s wage history and restricting their ability to consider wage history in setting new employee compensation. The pay equity ordinance was enacted to halt the perpetuation of gender discrimination in compensation practices.

As has been widely reported, the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce filed a lawsuit on April 6, 2017 to challenge the ordinance, which was scheduled to go into effect on May 23, 2017. The Chamber also filed a motion for a preliminary injunction, asking the Court to enjoin the enforcement of the ordinance while its lawsuit is pending, on the grounds that the ordinance violates businesses’ free speech rights under the First Amendment and is unconstitutionally vague.  The City of Philadelphia’s apparent first response has been to question whether the Chamber of Commerce even has standing to bring a lawsuit challenging the ordinance.

On April 19, Judge Mitchell Goldberg issued an order temporarily staying the enforcement of the ordinance until he can decide the Chamber’s preliminary injunction motion. Briefing on the standing issue will extend until at least May 12, with the Court’s decision on standing and possibly additional briefing related to the ordinance itself to follow.  Thus, it is unlikely that the ordinance will go into effect on May 23 as originally planned.

Although Philadelphia employers may be tempted to delay implementing changes to their hiring practices, we recommend that they remain alert and ready to comply. Legislation restricting employers’ ability to rely on a job candidate’s wage history in setting compensation is the latest trend in equal pay laws.  We predict that this trend will continue to gain momentum in other cities and states across the country.  Most recently, the New York City Council passed similar legislation amending the New York City Human Rights Law to prohibit employers from inquiring about an applicant’s wage history, which Mayor de Blasio is expected to sign shortly.  Prudent employers should review their hiring practices (e.g., update job applications and train managers about appropriate interview questions) and be prepared to comply with the law if the Chamber’s challenge is unsuccessful.

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About this Author

Alexa Miller, Labor and employment attorney, Drinker Biddle
Associate

Alexa E. Miller represents clients in a variety of employment-related disputes including discrimination, harassment, wrongful termination, wage and hour compliance, disability management and whistleblower claims in both federal and state courts and before administrative agencies.

In addition, she regularly advises employers on pre-litigation matters, conducts trainings and assists clients with drafting, reviewing and revising human resource handbooks, workplace policies, employment contracts and separation agreements.

973-549-7122
David Woolf, Drinker Biddle Law Firm, Philadelphia, Labor and Employment Litigation Attorney
Partner

David J. Woolf assists clients in a range of labor and employment-related matters, including employment litigation, non-competition and other restrictive covenant-related issues and union/management relations. David also actively works with our Corporate and Securities group on labor and employment deal diligence, providing guidance on the labor and employment aspects of actual and potential transactions.

David defends employers in employment-related litigation, including individual and class claims of discrimination, harassment, retaliation and wrongful discharge, in state and federal courts, as well as in administrative proceedings before the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and state and local agencies. He is also available as day-to-day issues inevitably arise, and regularly counsels employers on layoffs, disability and family/medical leave issues, plant closing procedures, wage and hour issues, and a host of other matters. David also conducts and assists clients with internal investigations of sexual and other types of harassment and related training.

 

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