PHILADELPHIA – The City today announced that on September 1, 2020 the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (PCHR) will begin enforcing the Wage Equity Ordinance, which prohibits employers from asking job applicants for their salary histories or using salary history to set their wages.

The goal of the Ordinance is to help close the wage gap for women and people of color. Philadelphia was one of the first jurisdictions in the country to pass such a measure. Mayor Jim Kenney signed it into law on January 23, 2017, following unanimous passage by City Council. The legislation was championed by former Councilmember William Greenlee, who introduced the measure on September 29, 2016 (Greenlee retired from Council at the end of 2019).

In February 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit overruled a lower court decision that had prohibited the City from enforcing the Ordinance after a First Amendment challenge was brought by the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia. The three-judge panel found that substantial evidence supported the City’s conclusion that banning salary history inquiries would help close the pay gap for women and people of color whose salary histories are tainted by prior discrimination. The decision has implications for states and cities across the country that have passed similar laws or are considering them.

Instead of seeking review before the United States Supreme Court or a rehearing by the Third Circuit, the Chamber elected to collaborate with the City on drafting a set of Frequently Asked Questions and provided input on PCHR’s Regulations, which were approved by the PCHR Commissioners on July 31, 2020.

City Solicitor Marcel S. Pratt:
“Bans on salary history inquiries are a critical component of the equal pay movement and Philadelphia’s law was seemingly the national test case. With the legal proceedings completely behind us now and an enforcement date set, job applicants in Philadelphia will soon begin to reap the benefits of the Wage Equity Ordinance. Recent studies show that jurisdictions with salary history bans are seeing increases in salaries for women and people of color when they change jobs, proving that these laws actually work and strengthening the case for passing them,” Pratt said, citing a recent study by Boston University. “The City is extremely grateful to the Chamber’s leadership and its members who participated in this collaborative effort, which will help ensure that employers receive clear direction on how to comply with the Ordinance so that job applicants are protected.”

Rue Landau, Executive Director, PCHR:
“The pay gap is the result of systemic workplace discrimination. Enforcing this Ordinance will help ensure that discriminatory pay history will not affect workers when they apply for jobs in Philadelphia and that workers are paid based on objective factors, like skill and experience. I am excited that PCHR can finally begin enforcing the Ordinance because it provides us with another tool to protect workers in Philadelphia. We prefer voluntary compliance by businesses over enforcement, so we urge employers to review the law, regulations, and FAQs and revise their policies and procedures accordingly. We also encourage job seekers to familiarize themselves with the law’s protections and to contact PCHR if they need our help.”

Rob Wonderling, President, Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia:
“The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia is very appreciative of the collaborative effort put forth by the City Solicitor and the Kenney Administration that enabled the interests of our membership to be represented in the process to draft the regulations necessary to implement the City’s Wage Equity Ordinance.

“As a result of the global pandemic and the dramatic and negative impact that it has had on the business community, we are also very appreciative of the ample time that was afforded to develop a balanced approach via the regulatory process. It is our hope that the Wage Equity Ordinance will help in closing the gender pay equity gap, while at the same time not placing a difficult regulatory burden on the business community.”