Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney signed into law on Monday, January 23, 2017 a bill that would make it an unlawful employment practice for employers to ask job applicants about prior pay.

This came after the Philadelphia City Council unanimously passed an ordinance, a law set forth by a governmental authority like a municipality, on December 8, 2016 that amends the Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance to prohibit all Philadelphia employers from asking prospective employees about their wage history.

What does this ordinance do?

This ordinance makes it an unlawful employment practice for an employer or employment agency to:

  • Ask about a prospective employee’s wage history,
  • Require that a prospective employee disclose wage history and conditions of employment,
  • Retaliate against a prospective employee for failing to provide wage history information, and
  • Rely on a prospective employee’s wage history to determine that individual’s wages at any stage of the employment process.

What’s the significance of this ordinance?

Department of Labor statistics show that women are paid on average lower wages than men. For every dollar a man earns, women only earn 79 cents. The Philadelphia City Council agreed that “basing wages upon a worker’s wage at a previous job only serves to perpetuate gender wage inequalities.”

Jeni Wright, an attorney and mother of two young children, submitted a written testimony in support of Philadelphia’s salary history ban.

“I think it disproportionately affects women, since we do provide most of the child care,” Wright said to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. After she had her second child, she decreased her work hours to 15 to 30 hours a week. When she decided to return to the workforce full-time, she didn’t want to feel forced to disclose that she worked part time for three years because to her, it felt like it weakened [her] bargaining position.

“It’s just fair to pay people for what the job is worth, not for what they had been paid in the past,” said Philadelphia Councilman William K. Greenlee (D) to the Philadelphia Daily News. “It should be based on what the job is and what the person’s experience and abilities are.”

Greenlee, who sponsored this bill, was inspired by a Massachusetts pay equity bill signed into law last summer that included a ban on asking for salary history.

Philadelphia joins a growing number of states and local jurisdictions that have passed similar legislation, including California. Other states and local jurisdictions considering this legislation include New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Washington, DC.

What should employers do?

Philadelphia employers and recruiting agencies should revise handbooks, policies, and training procedures to prohibit inquiries into prospective employee wage history during interviews and to set pay.

Employers should keep track of other factors, such as prior work experience, education, and pay for incumbents in the same or similar positions, that determine initial pay. Employers should document the specific reasons that motivated individual initial pay decisions.

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