On December 8, 2016, Philadelphia City Council passed new legislation, Bill No. 160840, which would make it illegal for Philadelphia employers to ask an applicant any questions regarding their salary history and fringe benefits history. The Bill would amend Philadelphia’s Fair Practices Ordinance and prohibit both employers and employment agencies from questioning potential employees about their wage history.
Under the Bill, an “Employer” is defined as “any person who does business in the City of Philadelphia through employees or who employs one or more employees exclusive of parents, spouse, Life Partner or children, including any public agency or authority; any agency, authority or other instrumentality of the Commonwealth; and the City, its departments, boards and commissions.” It’s certainly important to note that in order to be deemed an “Employer”, one only needs to employ one person and the definition is broad enough to include those who do business in the City of Philadelphia even if they’re not headquartered there.
The Bill certainly has teeth, including an anti-retaliation provision which precludes employers from taking any sort of retaliatory action against a prospective employee for refusing to offer wage history information. Under this new piece of legislation, employers will be prohibited from inquiring about a prospective employee’s past earnings and basing employment or interviewing decisions on an employee’s disclosure of wage history.
There are, of course, certain scenarios where a potential employee would want to disclose their wage history in efforts to entice a higher offer from a potential employer. Bill No. 160840 does have an exception for such a scenario which permits a potential employee to knowingly and willingly disclose their wage history. In such a scenario, this information may be relied upon by an employer in making an offer.
The Bill will take effect 120 days from Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney’s signing it into law. Assuming this Bill is indeed signed by Mayor Kenney, with all signs indicating that this is the likely outcome, employers in the City of Philadelphia covered by this legislation would be wise to remove questions on their application forms which inquire into an applicant’s current or past wage information and to train their hiring or HR Department to avoid questions which could be viewed as attempting to uncover past salary information of a potential employee.
It is worth noting that the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce has strongly voiced their opposition to this legislation.
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