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ALERT: New City Wage Equity Law

January 30, 2017

On Monday, January 23, 2017, Philadelphia Mayor Kenney signed the Wage Equity Law. The bill will become law on May 23, 2017. The law makes it illegal for employers to ask about previous salaries or retaliate against prospective employees for refusing to answer. Applicants who think the law has been broken can file a complaint with the City’s Commission on Human Relations. 
 
The bill’s objective is to restrain discrimination during the hiring process especially for women and minorities. The logic behind the introduction of the bill is that an employer’s reliance on an applicant’s wage history determines future payment, which perpetuates discrimination. The law recites that in Pennsylvania, women are paid 79 cents for every dollar a man makes. African-American women are paid only 68 cents to the dollar paid to a man, Latinas are paid only 56 cents to the dollar paid to men, and Asian women are paid 81 cents to the dollar paid to men.
 
Specifically, the new law amends Title 9 of the Philadelphia Code, by adding a new chapter on wage equity prohibiting employers from inquiring about salary history, including definitions, duties, penalties, posting requirements, a private right of action and other related items regarding wage equity; all under certain terms and conditions.  The law states that it is an unlawful employment practice for a covered employer, employment agency, or employee or agent thereof: 
 
To inquire about a prospective employee’s wage history, require disclosure of wage history, or condition employment or consideration for an interview or employment on disclosure of wage history, or retaliate against a prospective employee for failing to comply with any wage history inquiry; and 
 
To rely on the wage history of a prospective employee from any current or former employer of the individual in determining the wages for such individual at any stage in the employment process, including the negotiation or drafting of any employment contract, unless such applicant knowingly and willingly disclosed his or her wage history to the employer, employment agency, employee or agent thereof. 
 
The law does not apply to any actions taken by an employer, employment agency, or employee or agent thereof, pursuant to any federal, state or local law that specifically authorizes the disclosure or verification of wage history for employment purposes. Although the bill will become law, it does not eliminate the possibility of any legal challenges by the business community for violations of constitutional rights. 
 
If you have any questions about employment claims or how they might affect you or your company, please contact David McComb (dfmccomb@zarwin.com) or Zachary Silverstein (zsilverstein@zarwin.com) in Zarwin Baum’s Employment Law group.

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