Philadelphia's newly minted wage equity law survived protests by Comcast Corp. and the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, and a legal review by the city solicitor, before being signed by Mayor Kenney last month.
Now, it is under attack by Harrisburg Republicans.
The law, which will ban employers from asking job applicants for their salary history, would be preempted under a bill passed by the state Senate Wednesday. The preemption language was added at the eleventh hour to a related piece of legislation that aims to expand wage equity protections for women.
"Why would one part of the state have stronger protections than other parts of the state?" Majority Leader Jake Corman, who sponsored the preemption amendment, said in a debate on the Senate floor Wednesday. "This is a statewide issue."
Kenney spokeswoman Lauren Hitt on Wednesday decried the legislature's attempt to overrule Philadelphia's law.
"For state lawmakers to cherry-pick and toss out city laws to which they may object undermines the right to home rule afforded to every municipality in the commonwealth," Hitt said. "Given that many of the sponsors regularly espouse the need for local control, the effort strikes me as particularly hypocritical."
City Council passed the measure, aimed at tackling gender discrimination in pay, in December.
Shortly afterward, a lawyer hired by Comcast argued in a memo sent to the city that the law would violate businesses' First Amendment rights. The lawyer said his client and others in the business community were "considering a legal challenge" that could prove costly for the city.
Philadelphia's solicitor in January issued his own memo arguing the ban was legal, prompting Kenney to sign it. The law is set to take effect May 23.
A spokeswoman for the Chamber of Commerce did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday. Nor did Comcast senior executive vice president David L. Cohen, a vocal critic of the law.
The bill that would preempt Philadelphia's law was sponsored by Sen. Tom McGarrigle, a Republican who represents Delaware County. Michael Rader, his chief of staff, said it was not introduced at the request of Comcast or the chamber.
The bill, in addition to overruling Philadelphia's law, would bar employers from discriminating in pay based on sex. It also would prohibit discrimination against individuals who file complaints about wage discrimination, and prohibit employers from having policies that block workers from disclosing their salaries to others.
It passed on a 36-14 vote and now will go to the House.