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Philadelphia City Council Passes Bill Aimed at Lessening Wage Gaps

By Peter R. Rosenzweig

The Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance (“FPO”) prohibits employers in Philadelphia from discriminating against job applicants and employees on the basis of race, religion, national origin, color, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status and other protected classes.  This local ordinance mirrors the state anti-discrimination law (the “Pennsylvania Human Relations Act”) and the federal anti-discrimination laws including “Title VII”, the “Americans With Disabilities Act”, and the “Age Discrimination in Employment Act.”

Just last month the Philadelphia City Council unanimously passed the Philadelphia Wage Equity Bill (the “Bill”) which will be included as part of the FPO.  The Bill prohibits employers, at any stage in the hiring process, from asking a job applicant about his/her wage and fringe benefit history.  Though an applicant may voluntarily disclose this information, employers cannot affirmatively make the inquiry.

The goal of the Bill is to narrow the pay gap between men and women and other minorities.  Council believes that federal law has not done enough to fix this disparity, therefore, the City can take action in an effort to lessen the gap.  It noted that pay should be based on what the job is, not what the applicant previously earned.  Basing the current wage on the applicant’s prior wage will likely perpetuate the wage gap.

In Philadelphia there has been a clear trend in favor of providing more rights and protections to job applicants and employees.  In May 2015 under Mayor Nutter, the Philadelphia Paid Sick Leave Law became effective.  That law provides eligible employees with up to five paid sick days per year.  Less than one year later in March 2016, the FPO was amended to strengthen the “Ban the Box” provision which bars employers from asking about criminal backgrounds during the application process.

The Bill is the latest piece of labor-friendly legislation.  It will not take effect until 120 days after Mayor Kenney signs it.  His office has already indicated its support.