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The Chamber Challenges the Philadelphia Salary History Ordinance

Posted Thursday, April 13th, 2017


Last week, the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against the City of Philadelphia. The lawsuit was filed in response to the passage and signing of Bill No. 160840 in January 2017, a flawed measure that prohibits employers from asking job applicants about their prior salary or requiring disclosure of salary history as a condition of employment. If employers somehow come across the information, they can’t use it to make salary decisions unless the job applicant knowingly, and willingly, disclosed it.

The decision to file suit was not made in haste. After thoroughly reviewing the legislation, speaking with Mayor Kenney and members of the City Council, testifying at a City Council hearing, and conferring with our members — which as you know, represent a broad cross-section of the Philadelphia business and civic community — it is our collective belief that Bill No. 160840 must be prevented from taking effect.

Our mission is to attract, retain and grow jobs for the city and region, yet the Ordinance stands as a roadblock to the businesses seeking to grow their workforce in Philadelphia. Our top concerns — which range from exclusion of important information from the hiring process, lack of consideration for varying business needs and potential civil and criminal penalties — will only result in driving businesses out of the city and fewer jobs for local workers.

Further, the Ordinance violates employers’ First Amendment rights to ask about, and rely on, wage history, and is not supported by any tangible evidence that these practices perpetuate wage discrimination. The Ordinance applies to all businesses, large and small — including non-profits — that have a single employee within the City or that conduct business in the City. The Ordinance makes Philadelphia businesses less competitive.  It makes recruiting top talent more difficult and will put Philadelphia employers at a significant disadvantage compared to employers anywhere else in the U.S. at the present time. 

The Chamber condemns discrimination in any form and is strongly committed to eliminating discriminatory barriers to the professional advancement of women and minorities, including discriminatory pay disparities.  The Chamber has taken a leading role in promoting equality and opportunity for a wide array of diverse populations, including women.  Through its Diversity and Inclusion Series, for example, the Chamber has offered practical strategies to members to position diversity at the center of their business growth.  Since 2000, the Chamber has offered scholarships to more than 100 women as part of its Paradigm Scholarship for Working Women program, which is designed to ensure that women in Philadelphia can bridge the skill and education gap to increase their incomes.  The Chamber also has launched a CEO Access Network to diversify the Chamber’s leadership and membership, advance minority and female entrepreneurship, and improve economic conditions in the City and Greater Philadelphia region.

We look holistically at women’s issues and challenges in the workplace. We aim to tackle the wage gap through programs like those mentioned above, and also by talking about gender parity more broadly — including facilitating female representation in the boardroom and creating accommodating and flexible workplace environments.

The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia, in both its values and practices, is committed to inclusion and excellence in the management of all diverse people irrespective of differences. This means that there shall be no barriers to participation in any activity of this Chamber on the basis of economic position, gender, race, creed, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, or disability.

As we seek to promote growth and opportunity in Philadelphia, not quash it, and make this City a friendly place to live, work and do business, this Ordinance will hurt the economy, inhibit business growth and impede the creation of new jobs.

Going forward, the Chamber will continue to offer and support more comprehensive and legally sound alternatives to the City of Philadelphia ordinance. In addition, we will continue our strong advocacy in support of Senate Bill 241, which has already passed the Pennsylvania Senate and is awaiting action in the state House of Representatives. We firmly believe that SB 241 is a better and more appropriate statewide solution to ensure wage equity for all.

If you have any questions or would like to learn more, please contact Chamber Vice President Liz Ferry, (215) 790-3794 // lferry@chamberphl.com.

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