Philadelphia Bans Employers from Requesting an Applicant’s Salary History

Recently, Philadelphia became the first U.S. city to bar private employers from asking job candidates about their salary history. Supporters of the law believe it will actively help in closing the wage gap between men and women, following a report in 2015 that women in Pennsylvania were paid 79 cents for every dollar that men earn. In addition, those in support of the law believe the practice of asking for wage history perpetuates the problem of lower salaries being paid to women.

The new law, set to go into effect on May 23, 2017, prohibits employers from requesting a salary history from potential employees. If an employer is found making such a request it could trigger a $2,000 fine which will be enforced by the Commission on Human Rights. The law does allow, however, for candidates to voluntarily provide their salary history and for employers to ask for a candidate’s salary expectations.

Both cable giant Comcast and Philadelphia’s Chamber of Commerce have opposed the law, asserting it goes too far in dictating how employers can interact with potential employees and placing yet another hurdle to bringing new business to Philadelphia. Comcast urged the mayor to veto the bill and threatened potential legal action, believing the law would violate employers’ First Amendment rights to ask potential hires about their salary history.

While Philadelphia is the first city to enact such a law, the state of Massachusetts has enacted a Pay Equity Bill which also includes a ban on asking a candidate’s salary history. Since implementation of the Pay Equity Bill, similar legislation has been picking up speed around the country. Salary history bans have been introduced in New Jersey, as well as New York City, Pittsburgh and the District of Columbia. In November 2016, New York City stopped asking applicants for municipal jobs what they currently earn, and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order banning state entities from asking about pay history. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia’s delegate to Congress, has sponsored similar legislation in Congress.

Further attempts to ban salary history inquiries should be expected across the country as the latest effort to address perceived and actual pay discrimination. Employers are advised to watch for attempts to enact such laws at the local level. McMahon Berger will continue to monitor such activity and keep you up to date as developments occur.

The St. Louis employment attorneys at McMahon Berger have been representing employers across the country in labor and employment matters for sixty years and are available to discuss these issues and others. As always, the foregoing is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice regarding any particular situation as every situation must be evaluated on its own facts. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertisements.