A set of rules signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday aims to provide equal pay for male and female state workers doing the same work.
State hiring directors cannot inquire into an applicant’s salary history under the executive directive signed by the week-old Democratic governor.
“It’s pretty simple: Women deserve equal pay for equal work,” said Whitmer in a statement, noting that women in Michigan on average make 78 cents for every dollar paid to men.
That unequal pay for equal work damages not just women, but families, Whitmer said in the statement announcing the directive.
The 78-cent statistic has been criticized by experts as overly simplistic. The wage gap is affected by many factors, including that women tend to leave the workforce for periods to raise children, seek jobs with lower pay but more flexible hours and have less work experience than the average man, argues June O’Neill, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office.
Under the new state government rules, unless an applicant voluntarily provides his or her salary history, a state department or agency may not pursue information related to the individual's wage history until after making a conditional offer of employment.
The directive also asks the Civil Service Commission to promulgate new rules or instructions necessary to support equal pay protections.
Education on the new rules and supervision of them will be left to departments' equity and inclusion officers, who will report to Whitmer’s chief compliance officer any complaints regarding the directive.
Attorney General Dana Nessel was quick to applaud Whitmer's actions, calling them "refreshing" and a reason for confidence among Michigan women.
"Women have been short-changed for years, and it’s time we led by example," Nessel said in a statement. "… I have directed my HR department to immediately comply with the governor's directive."
The directive from the Democratic governor is a “good step” to ensuring equal treatment for women in the hiring process, said Linda Lee Tarver, president for the Republican Women’s Federation of Michigan. Tarver noted that Ivanka Trump, President Donald Trump’s daughter, has championed the same cause.
“We don’t want disparity,” Tarver said. “We want to be paid commensurate with our skill sets and based on merit. That is universal for women.”
The idea of protecting women against workforce discrimination is laudable, but that goal may not be best addressed to pay equity regulations, said Carrie Lukas, president of the Independent Women's Forum in Washington, D.C.
The conservative group has opposed gender pay equity measures because of the potential effect on women's ability to take lower pay in exchange for schedule flexibility, benefit increases or higher-level experience.
"This is trying to pay someone more than they may need to accept the job, which means it's costing taxpayers more,” Lukas said.
Tuesday’s directive is the 10th Whitmer has signed since taking office.
The directive comes a day after Whitmer signed a non-discrimination directive that will protect state workers from discrimination on the basis of their gender or sexual orientation.
Other directives have addressed interdepartmental reporting requirements, state spending priorities benefiting disadvantaged businesses, and bans on using personal email accounts for state business.