Whitmer signs equal pay measure

By: - January 8, 2019 8:04 pm
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

Gretchen Whitmer | Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive directive Tuesday that would stop state departments and agencies from asking about or investigating an applicants prior salary — a move the Democratic governor says will narrow the pay gap between men and women.

“It’s pretty simple, women deserve equal pay for equal work,” Whitmer said in a statement. “Women in Michigan earn 78 cents for every dollar men make for doing the same job, and it’s time for that to change.”

Larry Lipton, Laurie Lisi, Vickie Leland and Bruce Coppola of Indivisible 9th District protesting at the Capitol, Dec. 4, 2018 | Ken Coleman

The pay gap is even wider for many women of color in Michigan. According to a 2017 report from the Washington, D.C.-based National Partnership for Women, Black women are paid 64 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men. Latinas are paid 57 cents and Asian women are paid 96 cents.

The directive bars state departments from asking about a job applicant’s current or previous salaries until the department or agency makes a job offer that includes a compensation offer.

It also halts state employers from using public records databases or current or prior employers to discover the applicant’s last salary.

Asking about salary history can “inappropriately perpetuate the gender wage gap by enabling prospective employers to offer lower salaries to women than they otherwise would,” according to Whitmer’s executive directive.

A spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) and a spokesman for House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Equality and Inclusion Officers created by a previous Whitmer executive directive will be informing state employees about the governor’s latest order and are required to report related complaints to the state’s chief compliance officer.

Dana Nessel

Women in Michigan have been “held back by an economy and a state government that does not fully treat them as equals,” Whitmer’s directive 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.”

Attorney General Dana Nessel, also a Democrat, lauded the governor’s latest directive in a statement.

“Women have been short-changed for years and it’s time we led by example,” Nessel said. “Governor Whitmer’s commitment to making our state the gold standard of equity and equality on all fronts is refreshing.”

Nessel said she has already instructed her department “to immediately comply” with the new order.

Democratic lawmakers also cheered the news.

“Wage discrimination means fewer dollars in the pocketbooks of working families across the state, and that translates into fewer dollars in our local economies, slowing down growth and holding Michigan back from being the economic powerhouse it could be,” said Rep. Angela Witwer (D-Delta Twp.) in a statement.

Leslie Love

Rep. Leslie Love (D-Detroit), said the issue has “too long been ignored by previous administrations.”

Since being sworn into office on Jan. 1, Whitmer has signed 10 executive directives.

On Jan. 2, Whitmer signed her first executive directive aimed at preventing health and environmental crises. Whitmer on Thursday banned campaigning on state money and private email usage for state business. She also stated she plans to veto legislation that includes an end-run around the referendum process. On Friday, the governor issued a directive encouraging the state to award more contracts to businesses from low-income areas.

On Monday, Whitmer signed a directive that extended anti-discrimination rules first signed by GOP former Gov. Rick Snyder during his last week in office that stops certain state departments and agencies from discriminating on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. Whitmer’s order extended that to all state employees and people working for entities that do business with the state.

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Michael Gerstein
Michael Gerstein

Michael Gerstein is a former Advance reporter covering the Governor's office, criminal justice and the environment.