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Resistance to Philadelphia Wage Equity Bill Delays Signing into Law

By Peter R. Rosenzweig

The future of the Philadelphia Wage Equity Bill is uncertain after heavily publicized resistance has surfaced from Comcast and other local Philadelphia businesses.

As covered in our recent blog, the Philadelphia Wage Equity Bill (the “Bill”), which will be included as part of the city’s anti-discrimination law – the Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance (“FPO”) – 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.

In an effort to narrow the pay gap between men and women and other minorities, City Council unanimously passed the Bill.

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 providing 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.

This Bill is the latest piece of labor-friendly legislation. If signed by Mayor Kenney, it will not take effect for 120 days.  Initially indicating support, the Mayor’s office is now taking a closer look at the language included in the Bill due to recent objections from the Chamber of Commerce and businesses in Philadelphia.  Leading the effort against passage of the Bill is Comcast which asserts that the Bill infringes on businesses’ First Amendment rights and is just another restriction placed on businesses in Philadelphia.  Comcast has threatened to sue the city.  In response, the Mayor has tasked the city solicitor with reviewing the Bill and examining the legal arguments raised by Comcast. The Mayor will not make his final decision on whether or not to sign the Bill until receiving the appropriate legal guidance.  His response is expected by the end of the month.