New Michigan law bucks national 'ban-the-box' trend
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has signed a bill forbidding local governments from limiting the questions businesses can ask during job interviews, a move that bucks the "ban-the-box" trend impacting employers nationwide.
Under the new law, local governments are prohibited from implementing "don't ask" ordinances - nor can they use any local ordinances - in regulating a private organization's hiring decisions. For instance, a county governmental body may not administer ban-the-box to limit when an employer is able to consider criminal history information in screening a potential hire.
In addition, no Michigan city can deter private companies from asking about a job candidate's wage history, whether during an interview or on an application. However, the law does not bar any ordinance, local policy, or local resolution requiring a criminal background check in connection with receiving a license or permit from a local governmental body. According to the new legislation, "local government bodies" include cities, villages, townships, counties, public school districts, intermediate school districts, public school academies, community colleges, local public boards, agencies, and commissions.
Ban-the-box refers to the box applicants are asked to check if they have previous convictions. Through the legislation, some jurisdictions have made it illegal for employers to ask applicants about criminal convictions until the interview stage, while others ban the practice until a conditional job offer has been made.
In light of the new Michigan law, employers there should be aware that applicants are still guarded by statutes protecting them from impermissible questions and other discriminatory hiring practices. The state's Elliott-Larsen Civil Right Act and Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act, for example, disallow discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in employment, including during hiring. Meanwhile, Michigan's list of protected characteristics - among them, height, weight, and marital status - are even more expansive than federal Title VII of the Civil Rights Act’s protections.
Employers interested in reviewing their hiring procedures can find a list of prohibited interview questions in the Pre-Employment Inquiry Guide published by the Michigan Department of Civil Rights.
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