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Chamber files lawsuit to stop enforcement of wage history ordinance

April 6, 2017 GMT

The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against the city of Philadelphia that challenges the constitutionality of a bill barring employers from asking potential hires to provide their salary history.

The lawsuit was filed at 10 a.m. in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The chamber is seeking a preliminary injunction to keep the wage history ordinance from being enforced. The ordinance, slated to take effect on May 23, prohibits employers from asking job applicants about their prior salary or from requiring applicants to disclose their salary history as a condition of employment.

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Chamber officials said the ordinance violates employers’ First Amendment rights in prohibiting them from asking about wage history.

“What’s important from our vantage point to recognize is we are doing this on behalf of our members because we believe the ordinance is significantly flawed as it relates to its conformity with the United States Constitution,” Chamber President and CEO Rob Wonderling said during an interview with the Tribune following the filing.

He said that often overlooked is how employers are granted the same First Amendment rights as private citizens.

“This is a significant stand that we are taking on behalf of our members but we feel very strongly that our members’ rights should be protected,” Wonderling said. “We are taking this action because we’re hoping it will send a clear signal that we need to re-establish a shared agenda for the city of Philadelphia that does not place ’Philadelphia only’ unnecessary regulatory burdens on Philadelphia’s job creators.”

The chamber argued that the measure is flawed in multiple respects.

“The ordinance is a broad impediment to businesses seeking to grow their workforce in the city,” the chamber said in a statement.

It added, “The ordinance makes searching for and recruiting top talent more difficult, which makes businesses in Philadelphia less competitive. The inevitable consequences will be companies choosing to do business elsewhere and the loss of jobs for city workers, among other negative impacts.

“Despite the attempt by the city to characterize the ordinance as an attempt to address gender wage inequity, there is no evidence that prohibiting inquiries into wage history [leads to inequity],” the chamber continued.