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Whitmer Seeks To Ensure Equal Pay For Female State Employees

January 08, 2019 - 5:00 pm

LANSING (WWJ/AP) - Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has signed a directive aimed at ensuring that female state employees are paid the same as men doing equivalent work.

The order issued Tuesday -- just a week after Whitmer took office -- prohibits state departments and agencies from inquiring about a job applicant's current or previous salaries until making a conditional offer of employment, including proposed compensation.

The state also cannot retrieve the same information by searching public records or databases.

"The State of Michigan must be a model of equal opportunity," the governor wrote in the directive. "But, too often, the women of Michigan have been held back by an economy and a state government that does not fully treat them as equals."

"Women still struggle with inequity in Michigan's economy, earning only 78 cents for every dollar their male counterparts earn for the same work," she said.  "Sometimes this wage gap is framed as purely a women's issue, but in reality, it's an economic issue that hurts working families."

Whitmer said asking job applicants about their salary history can perpetuate the gender wage gap, adding that the directive "is about doing what's right."

[Read the full directive == Executive Directive 2019-10>

The governor's order does not prevent an applicant from volunteering information about compensation, but the applicant's refusal to do so must not be considered in an employment decision.

Among those reacting to the move, Mary Pollock, Government Relations Coordinator for the American Association of University Women of Michigan, who said she commend's the governor's action. 

"Salary history is one of the primary reasons the pay gap between men and women persists despite our laws banning sex-based wage discrimination. Using past wage rate of an applicant to establish a new compensation package continues any wage discrimination perpetrated by a past employer," Pollock said, in a statement. 

"Our laws require that employers pay employees on the basis of skill, effort, responsibility, working conditions, and training or education required, not the gender of the incumbent. Other Michigan employers in both the public and private sector need to issue similar internal policies."

In an EPIC-MRA poll the AAUW of Michigan commissioned last June, an overwhelming percentage of respondents agreed that Michigan needs to strengthen its laws on equal pay. An 84 percent majority supported new laws to ensure that women are compensated fairly, including a 67 percent majority of Michigan voters who were strongly supportive.  

The Associated Press contributed to this report.