Wage discriminationMichigan municipalities won’t be able to enact local legislation championed as one way to eliminate the wage gap between men and women under a bill heading to Gov. Rick Snyder.

Specifically, legislation (SB No. 353) restricts municipalities from regulating what information employers must request, require or exclude during job interviews passed the Republican-controlled House on Wednesday. This law includes questions about an applicant’s salary history. It cleared the Michigan GOP-controlled Senate months ago.

The Detroit Free Press reported it was sent to Gov. Rick Snyder on March 8 for his expected signature. However, his office noted as of this morning the Governor had yet to be presented the Bill. Perhaps the optics of signing a bill restricting the enactment of legislation intended to combat gender-based wage gaps on the same day as International Women’s Day contributed to the delay.

Current Michigan Employment Law

State law already prohibits local rules on what information is required or excluded in job applications. But the Bill amends that law to extend those restrictions to the interview process. The current law and proposed amendment (in all caps and bold font) reads:

A local governmental body shall not adopt, enforce, or administer an ordinance, local policy, or local resolution regulating information an employer or potential employer must request, require, or exclude on an application for employment OR DURING THE INTERVIEW PROCESS from an employee or a potential employee. This section does not prohibit an ordinance, local policy, or local resolution requiring a criminal background check 8 for an employee or potential employee in connection with the receipt of a license or permit from a local governmental body.

While no local governments in Michigan are considering ordinances regulating job interviews, the preemptive legislation is an apparent response to limit interview questions about salary history. Critics argue such questions perpetuate gender-based wage gaps.

In this regard, in 2016, Massachusetts was the first state to pass a law preventing employers from asking job candidates about their salary, including Oregon, Delaware, California, and New York City. Numerous states and cities followed by passing similar legislation banning salary history compensation as a means to close the wage gap between men and women, and minorities.

What this means for employers and the wage gap

The Michigan Chamber of Commerce and other business organizations supported the legislation.  From an employer’s perspective, asking about someone’s past or current salary is a standard business practice. And (assuming the Bill is signed), local government regulations can’t be enacted to interfere with that practice. It also avoids employers having to navigate a patchwork of local government regulations with the hiring process.

But, prohibiting an employer from asking about salary history could even the playing field for those who have experienced compensation gaps. On this point, a comprehensive analysis of U.S. earnings data found the pay gap between men and women begins at college graduation (even for the same degrees). And this discrepancy leads, on average, to women working full-time receiving only about 80 cents for every dollar a full-time male worker earns.

What is your experience or thoughts, whether based on hiring or interviewing, with salary history questions?

Jason Shinn is a Michigan employment law attorney. He routinely advises business clients about workplace legal issues. Since 2001, he has focused on companies and HR professionals to comply with federal and Michigan employment laws, and defending against alleged violations of such employment laws.