PHILADELPHIA — A Philadelphia city ordinance designed to rectify pay gaps between men and women won’t take effect as planned this month.
Bill 16084, also known as the Wage Equity Ordinance, passed the Philadelphia City Council in December and would make it illegal for employers to ask about wage history during the hiring process.
The long-term purpose of the ordinance was to alleviate the disparity between men's and women’s salaries. Supporters argue women are offered less pay by employers because of the discriminatorily low salaries they worked for at previous jobs.
Wage equity bills like the one passed by Philadelphia are becoming more popular.
“Wage equity is a real hot button issue,” Benjamin Mann, an employment lawyer with the firm Fisher Phillips, told the Pennsylvania Record. “It’s been a real focus.”
However, the bill in Philadelphia has not been welcomed by everybody. Members of the business community filed a legal memo asking the mayor to veto the legislation.
After the mayor signed the bill into law, the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce filed a federal lawsuit claiming the bill violated businesses’ First Amendment rights to free speech. That same day, the Chamber also filed for a preliminary injunction to put a stop to the bill before further litigation. The city has motioned to dismiss the lawsuit.
The judge hearing the case issued a stay, halting implementation until a request for a preliminary injunction is reviewed.
Although for the ordinance’s supporters a stay might seem like a setback, in the long run it might be mutually beneficial to both sides, Mann said - “The stay is in everybody’s best interest.”
For those in favor, a stay presents an opportunity to make sure the bill’s structure is sound. For those against, it delays the implementation of the bill.
It’s hard to determine whether the Chamber of Commerce’s lawsuit will be successful or if the case will be dismissed, Mann said. As is often the case in legal matters, there is no clear answer. However, it seems unlikely the ordinance will take effect by May 23 as intended.
To make matters murkier, the ordinance could be preempted by legislation in the works at the state level. S.B. 241 is making its way through the state House of Representatives and its purpose, in part, would be to negate the local law.
Despite all the unknowns there seems to be one certainty: this won’t be the last attempt at passing a wage equity ordinance.
“People are really taking a magnify glass to wage gaps between genders,” said Mann. “It seems to be a real trend.”