By Tricia L. Nadolny, December 8, 2016 —

Councilman Bill Greenlee (left) sponsored the legislation on salary history. He is shown with Council President Darrell Clarke and Blondell Reynolds Brown. DAVID SWANSON / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER


Philadelphia will soon be the first city in the nation to ban employers from asking job applicants for their salary history, a question advocates say perpetuates pay discrimination against women and minorities.

“This is about fairness. Just be fair,” said Councilman Bill Greenlee, who sponsored the legislation. “Base the salary offer on the job, what the job is worth and what the applicant brings in experience and ability.”

A spokesman for Mayor Kenney said the mayor will sign the bill, which was passed by Council Thursday, into law.

Philadelphia officials got the idea from the state legislature in Massachusetts, which passed its own salary-history legislation this summer.

Similar bills have also been introduced to the state legislatures in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. New York’s City Council is also considering the measure, and Mayor Bill de Blasio last month signed an executive order banning the question on applications for jobs with city agencies.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women make 79 cents for every dollar made by men.

Proponents of wage-gap legislation say the problem starts when women and minorities are given lower salaries than their male counterparts at their first jobs, an inequity maintained when they are forced to state their salary history when applying for new jobs.

“A woman who starts her career at the low end of a salary range will not be held to that standard for the rest of her work life,” Marianne Bellesorte, vice president of advocacy at PathWays, a nonprofit focused on ending poverty and homelessness, said of the legislation at a Council hearing on the bill last month. “Instead, she will have the opportunity to earn what she is worth at a new company.”

The legislation makes it illegal for employers to ask an applicant for their salary history or to retaliate against a prospective employee for failing to answer such a question. Applicants who think the law has been broken will be able to file a complaint within 300 days to the city’s Commission on Human Relations, which would have the ability to fine employers $2,000 and order them to pay other damages, including the applicant’s attorneys’ fees.