On January 23, 2017, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney signed an ordinance prohibiting employers from inquiring about an applicant’s salary history. The ordinance will become effective May 23, 2017. While the ordinance drew inspiration from a similar bill enacted in Massachusetts in 2016, Philadelphia is the first city in the country to ban the practice of asking job applicants about past earnings.

The ordinance applies to all employers doing business in Philadelphia, without a minimum employee threshold. It makes it unlawful for an employer (i) to inquire about (in writing or otherwise) a prospective employee’s wage history (which includes all earnings and fringe benefits), to require the disclosure of wage history, or to condition employment or consideration for an interview on a disclosure of wage history, (ii) to retaliate against an employee who does not provide wage history, or (iii) to rely on a prospective employee’s wage history in any way in the employment process unless the applicant “knowingly and willingly” discloses his or her wage history to the employer.

The Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations will be responsible for enforcing the new prohibition and may order hiring or reinstatement, back pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages up to $2,000 per violation, attorney’s fees, and costs incurred by the agency. In addition, subsequent violations potentially can result in up to 90 days imprisonment.

In its findings in support of the ordinance, City Council found that women, and particularly women of color, statistically earn less than men and that basing an employee’s pay on salary history “only serves to perpetuate gender wage inequalities.” City Council further found that salary offers should be based on the responsibilities of the position instead of an applicant’s prior wages.

Employers who seek to hire employees in Philadelphia will need to revise their employment application form and processes to insure compliance with the ordinance.