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Philadelphia Toughens Equal Pay Laws: Employers Cannot Ask Salary History

Recently, Philadelphia became the first city in the U.S. to pass a law prohibiting employers from asking applicants about their salary and wage history in the hiring process. Instead, all employment offers should be based on job qualifications rather than prior wages earned by the applicant. “Equal pay for equal work” has been a trending phrase in the workplace. More laws are being passed in an effort to provide additional protection to employees facing gender and minority pay discrimination.

The National Wage Gap

According to White House statistics, full-time working women earn 77 percent of what their male counterparts earn. The national wage gap is even more glaring when comparing only minority women. According to the National Committee on Pay Equity, the gender wage gap has narrowed by less than one-half cent per year since Congress passed the Equal Pay Act in 1963. The aim of these new equal pay laws is to accelerate wage gap elimination among women and minorities. By prohibiting employers from requiring applicants to disclose their salary or wage histories, advocates hope that applicants can break the cycle of pay discrimination when transitioning from one job to another. 

The Impact on the Employer

Once the Philadelphia ordinance goes into effect on May 23, 2017, employers within the city will no longer be able to place questions on job applications regarding prior salary of the applicant. This type of restriction is very similar to the “ban the box” laws passed by over 100 cities and states prohibiting employers from asking questions regarding criminal histories.

The full details of the law include making the following employment practices unlawful:

  • Requiring disclosure of an applicant’s wage history
  • Making a job interview or job offer contingent upon disclosure of wage history
  • Relying on wage history to determine wages for new hires
  • Retaliating against an applicant for not disclosing wage history

Expect many of these same restrictions to be passed in other jurisdictions. Massachusetts passed a very similar law last August, which takes effect in 2018, and Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York, recently signed an executive order prohibiting state agencies from these practices.


Disclaimer:  This blog includes general information about legal issues and developments in the law. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and must not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You need to contact a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction for advice on specific legal issues problems.