Newly Amended Ordinance Gives Philadelphia Authority to Shut Down Businesses for Violating Anti-Discrimination Laws

Jacob M. Sitman      Jul. 14, 2017

by Jacob M. Sitman and Theresa DeAngelis, Summer Associate

On May 17, 2017, Bill No. 170334 was signed into law by Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney.  The Bill amends Philadelphia’s Fair Practices Ordinance, which covers Philadelphia employers and prohibits unlawful discrimination practices in employment. The Fair Practices Ordinance already vested the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (“Commission”) to investigate and remedy unlawful employment discrimination.  However, the new Bill amends the Ordinance and grants the Commission authority to order a business to shut down for a “specified period of time” if it finds the business engaged in “severe or repeated violations [of anti-discrimination laws] without “effective efforts to remediate” the violations.

Although the Bill was enacted in May, the amended ordinance was not widely publicized until June 22, 2017, at the Mayor’s ceremonial signing.

Notably, the Bill’s harsh remedy for businesses that violate anti-discrimination laws does not define “severe or repeated violations,” or “effective efforts to remediate,” and offers no guidance on how long a “specified period of time” could potentially be. The Mayor’s office stated that the Commission will issue regulations to interpret the Ordinance as needed. However, in the interim, the disappointingly inherent ambiguity of the amended Ordinance and potentially harsh results are sure to  frustrate some employers.

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