Pretty soon, asking salary-history questions in Philly will get you sued.


Like requesting swiss cheese on your cheesesteak — way to go John Kerry — pretty soon, asking about a candidate’s salary history will be verboten too.

{cue music – soft / hard}

Last week, Philadelphia City Council read and passed this bill, which will ban employers from inquiring about salary history, and create a private right of action for aggrieved individuals (i.e., lawsuits).

According to Tricia Nadolny reporting at (here) Philadelphia will be the first city in the nation to pass this type of law, as Mayor Jim Kenney is expected to sign the bill, when it comes across his desk. (Massachusetts already has a similar law. Massachusetts is a state, I’m told).

Why enact this bill?

City Council believes that it will help to close the wage gaps based on gender, national origin, and race. Also, “salary offers should be based upon the job responsibilities of the position sought and not based upon the prior wages earned by the applicant.”

Who’s got beef with this bill?

The Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, among others. Here’s a snippet of the testimony from Rob Wonderling, President and CEO:

Much like members of this body, the Chamber shares concerns over wage inequality that exists among women and minorities when compared to white or male counterparts…. However, we remain concerned about the proposed Wage Equity legislation due to a number of reasons including government overreach, absence of important information in the overall hiring process, varying business needs, potential lawsuits and unknown consequences….When employers look at a candidates’ salary history, they have a better understanding of whether a candidate is worth pursuing based on previous compensation levels as well as the market value or salaries for comparable positions. A salary history can serve as a benchmark to ensure that an organization is in fact paying a market-value wage for positions.

What exactly does the bill prohibit?

An employer may not ask 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…”

Additionally, employers cannot “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.”

(There is an exception if the applicant “knowingly and willingly disclosed his or her wage history.”)

When will the law take effect?

120 days after Mayor Kenney signs it.

What happens if you mess up?

All of these are in play:

  • Compensatory damages;
  • Punitive damages;
  • Reasonable attorneys’ fees;
  • Court costs; and
  • Such other relief, including injunctive relief, as the court may deem appropriate

What should you be doing now?

Train your hiring managers, recruiters and proxies that questions about an applicant’s salary history are off limits.

And, for God’s sake, it’s Whiz, American, or Provolone.

“Doing What’s Right – Not Just What’s Legal”
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