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City of Philadelphia Adopts Wrongful Discharge Ordinance for Parking Employers

By Kevin Levine / Jun 20, 2019

On June 5, 2019, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney signed a bill that will require employers operating parking garages or lots in the City of Philadelphia to demonstrate “just cause” or a “bona fide economic reason” to discharge an employee. The ordinance set forth in the bill becomes effective September 3, 2019 and is part of a broader effort, both within and outside Philadelphia, to provide union-like protections to non-union, low-wage workers. The new law is estimated to impact about 1,000 employees.

The ordinance adds a new chapter to the Philadelphia Code entitled “Wrongful Discharge from Parking Employment,” which provides that a “parking employer shall not discharge a parking employee except for just cause or a bona fide economic reason.” A “parking employer” covered by this prohibition is a person or entity that employs one or more individuals at a parking garage or parking lot or as part of a valet parking operation.

The law sets forth requirements for a just cause termination, which mandate that the employer utilize progressive discipline before discharge but may not rely on prior discipline more than one year old. The ordinance also permits terminating employees in reverse order of seniority for bona fide economic reasons. Such terminations must be supported by business records showing closing of operations or “technological or reorganizational changes resulting in a reduction in revenue or profit.” Employees terminated for either reason must receive a written explanation of the just cause or economic reasons for discharge. In a subsequent investigation or lawsuit, the employer may not rely upon any reason for discharge outside the written explanation. And the ordinance prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who exercise these new rights.

The Mayor’s Office of Labor will be charged with investigation and enforcement. The ordinance also permits a discharged employee and the Philadelphia City Solicitor to bring a civil court action against an employer for alleged violations. In addition to the usual damages associated with a discharge claim, the relief available to a successful employee includes attorney’s fees, liquidated damages up to $2,000, and the extraordinary remedy of reinstatement.

Employers operating a parking garage, parking lot, or valet service in Philadelphia are advised to review their policies and practices in light of the ordinance. If you have any questions about the new law, you may contact Kevin Levine at klevine@clarkhill.com or another member of Clark Hill’s Philadelphia Labor and Employment Practice Group.