Judge tosses Chamber of Commerce's wage equity lawsuit

Stop and Frisk Philadelphia
Philadelphia Mayor Mayor Jim Kenney speaks during a news conference at City Hall in Philadelphia, Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Despite pressure from the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia, Kenney signed the city’s new wage equity law in January.

The lawsuit aiming to strike down Philadelphia’s new wage equity law has been tossed out by a federal judge because the group that filed it, the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia, did not identify a single business the law would harm.

Judge Mitchell S. Goldberg, in an order entered Tuesday, gave the chamber 14 days to file an amended complaint.

“Because the chamber has not met its burden to show that at least one of its members would have standing to bring this suit, I will grant the city’s motion and dismiss the complaint without prejudice,” Goldberg wrote.

Liz Ferry, a spokeswoman for the chamber, declined to comment, saying staff were reviewing the judge’s order.

The law — the first of its kind passed by a U.S. city — bans employers from asking job applicants for salary history. It is intended to close the pay gap between men and women, which some argue starts early in women’s careers and is perpetuated when they are asked to state their salaries going forward.

The city had agreed to hold off on enforcing the law, which was supposed to take effect May 23, until Goldberg ruled on a preliminary request for an injunction by the chamber. On Wednesday, city spokesman Mike Dunn said the city would honor that decision if the chamber files an amended complaint to identify specific businesses it believes the law would harm. If not, “the city will begin taking steps to enforce the ordinance, which seeks to improve wage equity for women and minority workers in Philadelphia.”

“We are gratified by the judge’s decision,” Dunn said.

The law faced little public scrutiny before being passed by City Council in December. The chamber submitted testimony in opposition but did not attend the hearing on it. The following month, the chamber and Comcast Corp. officials privately raised concerns about the bill with Mayor Kenney and his staff, threatening in a legal memo to sue if the mayor did not veto it.

In the suit, the chamber argues the law unfairly violates businesses’ right to freedom of speech because there is no evidence banning businesses from asking about salary history will close the gender pay gap.