Philadelphia Now Prohibits Employer Questions About An Applicant’s Wage History

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Philadelphia was the first city to pass a law to ban employers from asking about the wage history of job applicants in 2018. Now that a federal court’s injunction has been lifted, the law is in effect.

With a stated goal of advancing wage equity, the Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance was amended to make it an unlawful employment practice for an employer or employment agency to inquire about a prospective employee’s wage history, to require disclosure of wage history, or to condition employment or consideration for an interview on the disclosure of an applicant’s wage history. The law also prohibits retaliation against a prospective employee for failing to comply with any wage history inquiry or otherwise asserting her or his rights under the new law.

The law also prohibits reliance on wage history in determining the wages to be paid or offered to a prospective employee unless the applicant “knowingly and willingly disclosed his or her wage history.”  The only exception is where another law “specifically authorizes the disclosure or verification of wage history for employment purposes.”

The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia sued to block the law from going into effect. While originally successful by securing an injunction in 2018, the injunction was lifted on Friday, May 8, 2020.

The law will be enforced by the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations which is authorized to seek substantial fines and criminal penalties. In addition, an aggrieved person can file a private suit seeking compensatory damages, punitive damages, counsel fees, court costs and other equitable relief.

The Commission should be amending its poster listing unlawful employment practices which employers are required to post and exhibit prominently “in any place of business where employment is carried on.”

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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