The City of Philadelphia has passed an ordinance that will make it unlawful for employers to inquire into an applicant’s wage history during the hiring process.  The law, which amends the city’s current Fair Practices Ordinance, will take effect on May 23, 2017.

The ordinance states that—absent a federal, state, or local law specifically authorizing the disclosure or verification of wage history for employment purposes—it will be unlawful for an employer or its agent to:

  • inquire about, or require disclosure of, a prospective employee’s wage history, whether in writing or otherwise;
  • condition employment or consideration for an interview or employment on disclosure of wage history; or
  • rely on an prospective employee’s wage history obtained from a current or former employer in determining the individual’s wages at any stage in the employment process—including the negotiation or drafting of any employment contract—unless the applicant “knowingly and willingly” discloses his or her wage history to the employer.

The ordinance prohibits retaliation against a prospective employee for failing to provide his or her wage history or for enforcing his or her rights under the law.

For purposes of the ordinance, “wages” include “all earnings of an employee,” including “fringe benefits, wage supplements, or other compensation whether payable by the employer from employer funds or from amounts withheld from the employee’s pay by the employer.”

Individuals alleging a violation of the law may file a complaint with the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations, the agency tasked with enforcing the Fair Practices Ordinance. Remedies provided under the Fair Practices Ordinance for unlawful employment practices include equitable relief, compensatory and punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees and costs.

Philadelphia employers should take steps to inform their recruiters, hiring managers, human resources personnel, and others involved in the interview and hiring process of the new prohibition on salary history inquiries.