The Women’s Law Project filed an amici brief in federal court on behalf of itself and 27 organizations supporting Philadelphia’s prior wage legislation. Despite passing into law unanimously last year, the equal pay ordinance has been stalled due to a lawsuit.
The ordinance prohibits reliance on and inquiry about a job candidate’s prior wage to determine his or her salary. Such a ban is important and necessary because salary offers based on a prior wage–rather than the job’s responsibilities and the applicants’ qualifications—perpetuate systemic pay discrimination. Despite federal and state laws adopted over fifty years ago to eradicate the gender wage gap, a significant pay gap persists that harms women, especially women of color. Typically, the gender wage gap is present early in a woman’s career, then widens throughout her life.
By removing prior wages from the conversation, the Philadelphia ordinance enables women to be paid based on objective criteria, like education and experience. When the ordinance passed into law last December, it was celebrated as a significant step forward in workplace equality.
However, as reported in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia and Comcast Corp. began privately lobbying against the bill after its passage, trying to persuade Mayor Kenney to veto it.
As a result the ordinance, which was scheduled to go into effect on May 23, has stalled.
In our brief, we argue that Philadelphia’s prior wage legislation is a rational legislative policy decision like many longstanding laws regulating the employment relationship for the purpose of eliminating discrimination, and cite the many, many longstanding legal precedents supporting this argument.
“The fact is that Philadelphia’s prior wage ordinance is based on both evidence and legal precedent,” said WLP Managing Attorney Terry L. Fromson, who co-authored the brief with Staff Attorney Amal Bass. “This law is especially important in Philadelphia, the poorest city of the ten most populous cities in the country. We’re talking about a commonsense anti-discrimination policy here, and it’s being blocked by business interests using faulty arguments.”
The Women’s Law Project is a public interest law center in Pennsylvania devoted to advancing the rights of women and girls.
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