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May 31, 2017

Judge dismisses lawsuit challenging Philly salary history bill

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia does not have a legal basis to challenge the halted wage equity bill that would block Philadelphia employers from asking job applicants to disclose their salary history. 

U.S. District Judge Mitchell S. Goldberg, of Eastern District of Pennsylvania, decided to dismiss the Chamber's lawsuit against Philadelphia on grounds that it failed to prove the law's harm to any of its member businesses. 

The bill, signed by Mayor Jim Kenney in January, is intended to prevent workplace discrimination and promote equal pay for women and minorities. In its lawsuit, the Chamber of Commerce argued the bill is an anti-business measure that would stifle commerce in Philadelphia and drive companies away from operating in the city. 

Concerning the matter of salary history, the Chamber's lawsuit contended businesses have a First Amendment right to inquire with an applicant about their past earnings. Philadelphia City Councilman Bill Greenlee, who wrote the bill, said in January that removing the question of salary history shouldn't be seen as an impediment to the hiring process.

"There are various ways that you can determine what a job is worth without asking about a person's salary," Greenlee told PhillyVoice. "You can compare the position with a similar job. You can look at that employee's skills. This doesn't remove negotiation. It just stops that basic question, which is often where an interview starts."

Originally, the bill was set to take effect on May 23, but the legal challenge put its implementation on hold. The Chamber of Commerce still has 14 days to submit an amended complaint. 

“We are gratified by the Judge’s decision," city spokesperson Mike Dunn said in a statement. "If the Chamber files an amended complaint that cures the standing defects identified by the Court, the City will adhere to its agreement not to enforce the order until the Chamber’s motion for preliminary injunction is resolved.  If no amended complaint is filed within the period stipulated by the Court, the City will begin taking steps to enforce the ordinance, which seeks to improve wage equity for women and minority workers in Philadelphia.”