Philadelphia City Council Focuses on Employee Rights with Fair Workweek Bill

By Peter R. Rosenzweig

Over the last four years City Council has introduced legislation aimed at protecting the rights of employees in the city of Philadelphia with varying levels of success.  City Council is, once again, pressing forward with legislation that will benefit employees.  In December 2018, City Council approved the “Fair Workweek” bill.  The bill is intended to stop employers from changing employee work schedules on short notice and to prevent the unanticipated disruption of employee’s lives and their schedules outside of work.  The bill has not yet become law but is expected to be signed by Mayor Kenney.

Looking back to February 2015, Mayor Nutter signed the “Promoting Healthy Families and Workplaces Ordinance” (“Paid Sick Leave Law”) that requires employers to permit full-time and part-time employees who work at least 40 hours per year within the city to accrue paid sick leave at the rate of one hour for every 40 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours per year.  Paid sick time begins to accrue on the date of hire and an employee is entitled to use the covered leave (a) for their own illness, (b) to address a family member’s mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition, or (c) to obtain medical attention to recover from any injury or disability caused by domestic or sexual violence (including stalking) or for related legal services or remedies.

Next, in January 2017, City Council enacted an ordinance prohibiting employers from inquiring about a job applicant’s wage history.  City Council believes that pay disparities exist among employees in different protected classes (e.g., gender and race) and that these disparities will be perpetuated if the new employer bases the starting salary on past salary.  Before becoming effective, however, the ordinance was challenged in federal court by the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, and City Council has no current plan of implementation.

Most recently, as cited above, City Council introduced the “Fair Workweek” bill.  The bill requires employers to provide employees with two weeks advance notice of their work schedules so that employees are protected from last minute schedule changes that could cause undue hardship.  An important detail to highlight is that this bill applies only  to employers with more than 30 locations and 250 employees.  Not unexpectedly, the Chamber of Commerce has opposed the bill contending that such a law would hurt business growth in the city.

It’s unclear whether or not these bills will become law in the city.  In the meantime, our team of employment lawyers is actively monitoring City Council activity and the status of the aforementioned bills.  For more information relating to legal obligations placed on employers in the city of Philadelphia, contact Kleinbard partner, Peter Rosenzweig at prosenzweig@kleinbard.com or at 267.443.4120.