Just before the holiday break, Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1), which was signed into law by President Trump on December 22, 2017. Although the far-reaching implications of the new tax law won’t be fully realized for some time, there are several noteworthy provisions that will impact employers immediately.
Last week, District Court Judge Mitchell Goldberg granted the City of Philadelphia’s Motion to Dismiss the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce’s lawsuit challenging Philadelphia’s controversial new pay history ordinance. As we have discussed previously (see Here’s What that New Philadelphia ‘Pay History’ Law Means for Your Business and Philadelphia Wage Equity Ordinance On Hold … For Now), the ordinance would make it unlawful for an employer to inquire about a job applicant’s pay history and would severely restrict an employer’s ability to base a new hire’s initial pay on his or her compensation history. The ordinance had been scheduled to go into effect on May 23, but was stayed by Judge Goldberg, with agreement of the City, pending resolution of the City’s motion to dismiss the Chamber’s lawsuit challenging the ordinance.
Judge Goldberg’s decision is likely not the last word however, as it did not address the merits of the ordinance. Rather, the Court held that the Chamber, because of the way the lawsuit was worded, did not have standing to challenge the ordinance, and it gave the Chamber until June 13, 2017 to file an amended complaint to cure those deficiencies. The Chamber is now expected to do just that.
Earlier this year, Philadelphia became the first city to pass a law prohibiting employers from inquiring about a job applicant’s wage history and restricting their ability to consider wage history in setting new employee compensation. The pay equity ordinance was enacted to halt the perpetuation of gender discrimination in compensation practices.
As has been widely reported, the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce filed a lawsuit on April 6, 2017 to challenge the ordinance, which was scheduled to go into effect on May 23, 2017. The Chamber also filed a motion for a preliminary injunction, asking the Court to enjoin the enforcement of the ordinance while its lawsuit is pending, on the grounds that the ordinance violates businesses’ free speech rights under the First Amendment and is unconstitutionally vague. The City of Philadelphia’s apparent first response has been to question whether the Chamber of Commerce even has standing to bring a lawsuit challenging the ordinance.
David Woolf wrote an article for the Philadelphia Business Journal titled, “Here’s what that new Philadelphia ‘pay history’ law means for your business.” Philadelphia will likely become the first city in the nation to ban employers and employment agencies from asking job applicants for their salary history or requiring disclosure of such information. The Philadelphia City Council unanimously approved the bill on December 8; if enacted as expected, the new law will go into effect 120 days after the Mayor signs it. David discusses what this new bill means for local businesses.
Dave notes that the ordinance would also make it unlawful for an employer to base their compensation offer on an applicant’s prior salary unless the applicant knowingly and willingly discloses their salary history to the employer. The new law is meant to lessen the wage gap earnings between white males and women and minorities, but has been met with some controversy. The Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce has openly opposed the bill, stating that the legislation “goes too far in dictating how employers can interact with potential hires.”
On October 20, 2016, the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) issued “Antitrust Guidance for Human Resource Professionals” regarding antitrust prohibitions of agreements that restrain competition for employees’ services. (Click the following links for a copy of this guidance, and the accompanying press release.) The guidance addresses business-to-business agreements regarding employee non-hiring and recruitment, and is intended to both remind HR professionals that these agencies have challenged such types of understandings over the past several years, and warn employers that the DOJ, in particular, intends to begin prosecuting at least some employers criminally in the months and years ahead.
The overall message is that employees are entitled to all of the benefits of competition for their services and that the FTC and DOJ are now increasing scrutiny of all practices that may impede those benefits. Some examples are formal or informal “wage-fixing,” “anti-poaching” and exchanges of compensation information generally. Over the course of the past several years, both agencies have challenged some of these practices in a variety of industries, particularly within the high-tech and healthcare sectors, as “per se” antitrust violations. These government actions have been followed by private class actions seeking treble damages, which in some cases, have resulted in judgments for hundreds of millions of dollars. As noted above, the DOJ now intends to treat at least some of these practices as felony criminal violations of the antitrust laws.