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Initiatives to close Workforce, Wage Gap for women stall in session

The priorities currently are bills that would ban employers from asking job applicants about salary history and a child care tax credit program.


The Wage Gap and Work Force Task Force met for several months last year as tasked by Gov. Kay Ivey to brainstorm ways to address Alabama’s wage gap for women, as well as the gap in workforce participation.

The task force found a variety of options but came forward with two particular focuses: banning employers from asking about salary histories and increasing tax credits for child care.

Bills were introduced to address both priorities, but neither made any movement during the legislative session.

The task force was chaired by Melanie Bridgeforth, president and CEO of the Women’s Foundation of Alabama. Women’s Foundation sent out an email after the close of session updating constituents on the status of the bills.

“This year, we defended past wins by securing continued funding for key priorities in both budgets,” the foundation said in the email. “We maintained an appropriation to the tune of $750K for Women’s Foundation of Alabama’s Student Parent Success Model with Alabama’s community colleges, fought for an increase of $30M for quality child care in the state, and maintained the current fiscal year’s funding of Alabama Maternal Mortality Review Committee at $478K and $4M continued funding for postpartum Medicaid coverage.

“Two of our priorities – the Alabama Child Care Tax Credits and Banning the Salary Question Bill – were unsuccessful. But we won’t stop fighting. Together, we’ll turn this road block into a spring board and continue building on our momentum throughout the summer.”

The Alabama Child Care Tax Credit was carried in the Senate by Sen. Garlan Gudger, R-Cullman, and would have provided a total of $15 million in tax credits to employers that provide childcare at the place of employment, while providing $5 million in tax credits to other child-care facilities.

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“After a long session that included several economic incentives and tax credit bills, the Alabama Child Care Tax Credit legislation (SB273 and HB368) fell victim to incentive-fatigue,” Women’s Foundation said in its email. “While the bill did not move forward, we are well positioned with tremendous support from our advocacy network, key associations, and several legislators for passage next year. Stay tuned for additional ways to engage on this issue throughout the summer.”

Banning employers from asking about an applicant’s salary history was the primary policy change to come out of the task force. During discussions, members of the task force discussed how asking about salary history can negatively impact women in particular as it can fail to account for years that a woman may have spent away from the workforce to care for children. It also can unfairly perpetuate lower pay for women or any worker as employers can use the salary history to determine how little they can pay a prospective employee in comparison to previous jobs.

“Early in the session, a number of business groups lined up against the Ban the Salary Question Bill (HB331), one of our legislative priorities this year,” the foundation said in its email. “The bill was assigned to the Commerce and Small Business Committee, which is a committee dominated by business interests and stalled any progress on the issue. We worked during the session to educate key players in the business community as to the positive impact the bill could have and managed to build some bridges that we anticipate will be useful as we work on this issue in the future.”

Bridgeforth did not respond to multiple attempts by APR to comment for this story.

The Ban the Salary Question bill was carried by Rep. Adline Clark, D-Mobile, who previously carried the state’s equal pay act through the Legislature.

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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