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Ask The Lawyer By: Daniel A. Gwinn, Esq.

| April 9, 2018


QUESTION: One of my co-workers says it’s illegal to ask about a job applicant’s salary at their last job. I say there’s no law against it. There’s $20 riding on your answer. Who’s right?

ANSWER: Technically, you both are.

There is no law in Michigan against asking a job applicant about their previous salary, but the same is not true in other states. It is illegal to ask such questions in New York City and will soon be illegal to ask about previous pay in Massachusetts. In addition, several states, including Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, are considering bills that would ban the pay question as part of the hiring process.

And while there isn’t a law specifically banning the salary history question in Michigan, use of that information to set a new hire’s pay may violate the Equal Pay Act or constitute discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

What’s wrong with asking “How much did you make in your last job?” It could perpetuate discriminatory pay practices. Women still make just 77.9 cents to every dollar a man makes, and their median wage is 22 percent less than the median wage for men, according to If two equally qualified candidates are hired for the same position, one a man, the other a woman, it is likely that the woman’s previous salary will be less than that of her male co-worker. If that previous pay is used to set the woman’s new salary, she will continue to earn less. The disparity in wages between black and white men is also high – an estimated 30 percent.

So, while it is not –yet – illegal in Michigan to ask about previous pay, an employer should be very careful how it uses that information.

Need advice on what questions pass muster at a job interview? The lawyers at GWINN LEGAL PLLC are experienced attorneys and are happy to answer your questions. Give us a call for a free initial telephone consultation about your legal needs. For consideration of your questions in our web column, please submit your inquiry on the “Contact Us” page of our website at

Information provided on “Ask the Lawyer” is current as of the date of publication. Laws and their interpretation are subject to change. The material provided through “Ask the Lawyer” is informational only; it should not be considered legal advice. Submitting a question to “Ask the Lawyer” does not create an attorney-client relationship between the person submitting the question and GWINN LEGAL PLLC. To view previous columns, please visit our website.

By: Daniel A. Gwinn, Esq.

Attorney and Counselor at Law
901 Wilshire Drive, Suite 550
Troy, MI 48084
(248) 247-3300
(248) 247-3310 facsimile

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