Appeals court upholds Philly wage equity law, gives job applicants a win

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia won a big victory on Thursday in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. The Court upheld the city's wage equity law, which had been challenged by the Chamber of Commerce. The city says it will begin enforcing the law as quickly as possible.

Philadelphia was in the vanguard in passing a law to prohibit employers from asking job applicants for their wage history, as a way to close the pay gap for disadvantaged groups, but the Chamber challenged it on First Amendment grounds, keeping it from enforcing the law for three years.

A district court decision was split. Employers could ask wage history but were barred from using the information to set salaries. Both the city and the Chamber challenged that. 

In that time, several states and cities have passed similar laws, which city Solicitor Marcel Pratt says gives the ruling national importance.

"It gives them some assurance that their laws are valid. They probably already felt that way, because they weren't sued in their jurisdictions, but I think it's a huge victory. It's a huge victory nationally," Pratt said. 

To show how long the case dragged on, both of the bills' sponsors have retired from City Council, but Council President Darrell Clarke was thrilled.

"We can now look to make sure people get fair wages across the table," Clarke said.

The Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations will be in charge of enforcement. Director Rue Landau says she'll work with employers on the timeline for complying with the law, but she says she's eager to get started.

"There've been individuals and families who've been harmed since 2017 because we haven't been able to enforce this law, so let's get it started as soon as possible," she said. 

The Chamber of Commerce says it's disappointed but is reviewing the ruling and considering their next steps.