Michigan House OKs bill to ban local job interview rules

A split House on Wednesday voted to preemptively bar municipalities from regulating what Michigan employers can or cannot ask during job interviews, sparking criticism from Democrats who said such ordinances can help close the wage gap between men and women.

The Republican-sponsored bill, which won Senate approval previously, will go to Gov. Rick Snyder on Thursday for his expected signature. No local governments in Michigan are considering such rules that have been enacted by Massachusetts and California and cities such as Philadelphia, but business groups say the legislation is needed to head off any future efforts to restrict the interview process and to avoid a patchwork of local regulations.

Michigan already prohibits local ordinances regulating what information is required or excluded in job applications.

Several Democrats spoke in opposition to the measure before the largely party-line 62-46 vote. They said it is wrong to strip municipalities of their decision-making power and argued that banning questions on salary history would address pay equity and income inequality issues for women and minorities.

Such prohibitions against salary questions would require a new employee’s wages to be based more on their value to the employer instead of what the employee has earned in the past, according to critics of the bill.

“We know in the state of Michigan right now, there is an uneven playing field for a potential employee and the employer,” said Rep. Donna Lasinski, of Washtenaw County’s Scio Township.

Rep. Fred Durhal III, a Detroit Democrat, said the legislation could also hamper efforts to help people with criminal records find employment.

“This bill does nothing to help workers trying to provide for their families by finding a better-paying job, and they should not be held back by employers asking about salary history,” he said.

Rep. Eric Leutheuser, a Hillsdale Republican, countered by saying that the interview process is an “excellent time” for applicants to make the case that they have special skills not reflected in their salary history.

Organizations supporting the bill include business groups such as the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Michigan Restaurant Association and Michigan Retailers Association. They have said asking about someone’s past or current salary is a standard business practices, is a basic matter of budgeting, allows them to better assess the applicant and that employers should be free to interview in a manner they prefer, according to an analysis conducted by the nonpartisan House Fiscal Agency.  (AP)

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