Councilwoman Cherelle Parker speaks during an event

COUNCIL ADOPTS PARKER LEGISLATION TO INCREASE DIVERSITY IN CITY HIRING BY ELIMINATING ‘RULE OF TWO’

In Cherelle Parker, Council News, Darrell L. Clarke, News by PHL Council

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Change Will Provide Flexibility for Philadelphia to Further Diversify Recruitment, Hiring; Measure Will Appear on November Ballot as a Ballot Question

PHILADELPHIA, PA, June 17, 2021 – In a bold move to make the City’s workforce, particularly its upper management, more reflective of Philadelphia’s diversity, City Council today voted unanimously to change the City Charter by eliminating the “Rule of Two,” which many say created a system that for decades discriminated against minorities and women for entry-level hiring, but especially promotions.

Philadelphians will vote to approve or deny the legislation on the November ballot.

The legislation, introduced by Councilmember Cherelle L. Parker (9th District, Majority Leader), augments her focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Under current law, when filling single-position vacancies for Civil Service jobs, only the two highest ranking candidates on the eligible list are submitted to the requesting department for an interview. The department then selects one of the two candidates to fill the position.

The elimination of the Rule of Two would give the City significantly more flexibility to address recruitment and diversity challenges and will have two major impacts on the City’s recruitment and selection process. Firstly, it will increase the diversity of candidate pools. Secondly, it will allow the City to leverage the use of alternate selection tools like training and experience as opposed to traditional “pen and paper” (a.k.a. standardized test) assessments.

“It is one thing for an employer to say, ‘Black Lives Matter,’ and an entirely different thing for an employer to make real, substantive changes that ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion,” Councilmember Parker said. “Our municipal government is one of the largest employers in the City of Philadelphia, and for too long, the Rule of Two has held back Black and Brown employees, either from obtaining that entry-level job or from getting that promotion. This legislation is by no means a ‘silver bullet’ to making our City’s workforce, and particularly our City’s upper management, more reflective of Philadelphia’s demographics, but it is a necessary and important step.”

By eliminating the existing Rule of Two, Parker’s legislation will allow the Human Resources Director for the City to set the rule for each announcement based on several variables defined under specific guidelines. The guidelines, which will be set by regulation, will address these questions and more:

  • What is the diversity of the incumbents in the job title to be announced?
  • Where are the gaps in diversity?
  • What is the historical data from prior lists about diversity of the talent pool?
  • Have the required key competencies and requirements on the job description been updated to attract the most qualified and diverse candidate pool?

The City of Philadelphia receives approximately 70,000 applications per year on average for Civil Service examinations. The Office of Human Resources established 385 eligible lists in FY20 and 280 in FY21 to date. In a 2017 comparison with 35 other peer cities, it was found that no other municipality adhered to a Rule of Two. All had more expansive rules (Rule of Five, Rule of Ten, etc.), and approximately 20 percent used a varying rule, which is what this legislation proposes.

City Council President Darrell Clarke (5th District) said the Rule of Two regulation has impeded the City’s ability to recruit, attract and hire a diverse workforce that represents Philadelphia. “We are hopeful that this reform, offered by Majority Leader Parker, deals with that problem and paves the way for more opportunities to serve the City for job applicants of color,” Clarke said. “That is a good thing for the people of Philadelphia.”

Mayor Jim Kenney’s Office supports the measure. “We are excited to see a change to the current charter rule that requires our managers to choose between just two candidates,” Stephanie Tipton, the Mayor’s Chief Administrative Officer, said. “By expanding this rule, we will reach a wider and more diverse pool of candidates and create more flexibility in our hiring process.”

According to a 2018 report by the Pew Charitable Trusts titled “Hiring and Employment in Philadelphia Government”, the Rule of Two does not provide managers with the latitude to make employment decisions that fit the unique needs of certain jobs. The report states, “The Rule of Two limits hiring managers to the two top-scoring candidates for each civil service vacancy. Meant to place emphasis on merit selection, the rule gives hiring managers little discretion in assembling their teams. In Philadelphia, many City officials said that the rule, by drawing hard-and-fast

distinctions between candidates of roughly equal qualifications, can undermine a manager’s ability to hire a diverse and talented workforce.”

David Thornburgh, President and CEO of the nonpartisan Committee of Seventy, said elimination of the Rule of Two is long overdue. “Reform of the 1950s-era Rule of Two has long been needed to provide greater flexibility in hiring and promotion decisions. The rigidity of the Rule of Two was warranted 70 years ago to guard against patronage, but we face a different set of challenges in the 21st Century,” Thornburgh said. “Highly-qualified and diverse workers will help ensure the effective and efficient delivery of government services. We applaud Majority Leader Parker for her leadership on this issue and look forward to working with her on this legislation.”

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Councilmember Cherelle L. Parker represents the 9th District, which includes East Mt. Airy, West Oak Lane, East Oak Lane, Lawncrest, Burholme, Olney, Oxford Circle and Logan. As Majority Leader, she serves as Chair of Council’s Committee on Labor and Civil Service and the Committee on Law and Government.

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