In 2022, the Alabama Legislature created a so-called “Workforce and Wage Gap” task force to correct what some allege is an unfair discrepancy of median pay between men and women. Now, the task force recommends various policies, including adding a salary history ban, offering incentives to conduct equal pay audits, using tax credits and COVID funding to expand childcare and more. 

The task force concluded that the discrepancies in pay between men and women “arise largely from occupational segregation, low labor force participation and the legacy of discriminatory practices.”

“Women face unique barriers that make it harder for them to work and earn a fair wage, including an increased burden of family responsibilities and shortage of quality, affordable childcare,” the task force’s conclusion read. 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, other factors, such as age, the number of hours worked and education, contribute to discrepancies in overall earnings. Men and women also often choose to perform different jobs, which may pay more or less than others.

For instance, in the Bureau’s most recent study, the top occupations for men in Alabama were truck driving, management and first-line supervisor of retail sales. In contrast, the top fields for women were nursing, teaching and assisting executives.  

Governor Kay Ivey signed Act 2022-359 into effect on April 13, 2022. The law, sponsored by State Rep. Adline Clarke (D-Mobile), stated that creating economic opportunities for women is “central to solidifying the positive economic trajectory that Alabama enjoys” and that females in Alabama made only 73 cents per every dollar the males earn. This statistic, the legislation argues, is nine cents less than the pay gap on a national scale.

The law created the Alabama Workforce and Wage Gap Task Force to recommend policies to the State Legislature to mend the discrepancy in pay. 

The task force members were appointed by a variety of individuals and entities. Ivey was responsible for appointing three of the members. 

Others were appointed by the Alabama Senate President Pro Tempore, the Senate Minority Leader, the Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives, the House of Representatives Minority Leader, the Women’s Section of the Alabama State Bar and even the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), a Virginia-based advocacy group that lobbies for pay audits, increasing the minimum wage and federal “equal pay” standards.

Women’s Foundation of Alabama President and CEO Melanie R. Bridgeforth chaired the task force. 

Baker Donelson’s Jenna M. Bedsole, American Association of University Women Huntsville’s Amanda Foster, Kendra Key, State Rep. Joe Lovvorn (R-Auburn), Alabama SHRM Director Mike Polis, Stillman College President Dr. Cynthia Warrick, State Rep. Andy Whitt (R-Harvest), Associate Dean and Professor of Management at the University of South Alabama Dr. Kelly Collins Woodford, Director of Regions Institute for Financial Education at the University of Alabama Birmingham (UAB) Dr. Stephanie Yates and Clarke also served on the task force.

As members of the task force, each member, including State Reps. Lovvorn, Whitt and Clarke, signed and thereby endorsed, the list of recommendations. 

Here is the complete list of recommendations:

  • “Prohibit employers and third parties from requesting pay history from job applicants.”

  • “Incentivize equal pay audits by creating a good faith defense to litigation for the CF-EPA.”

  • “Create tax incentives to increase the supply and affordability of quality childcare in Alabama.”

  • “Utilize all available federal funding, including temporary COVID relief, to support access to affordable, quality childcare.”

  • “Explore innovative ways to close the childcare supply gap, such as a revolving fund or start-up grants for childcare facilities and capital expenses.”

  • “Prioritize childcare in Alabama’s future workforce policy planning by creating an intra-agency council on workforce and childcare.”

  • “Add representative(s) to the Alabama Workforce Council(s) to focus on gender dynamics in workforce development.”

  • “Increase funding for early intervention programs that expose and prepare girls for careers in STEM.”

  • “Increase funding for apprenticeship programs and ‘earn and learn’ pathways.”

  • “Increase funding for workforce navigators and career coaches.”

Nationally, several Republicans have been opposed to the government getting involved in the private sector to eliminate the discrepancy between male and female average pay. U.S. Senate Republicans blocked a bill in 2021 that would prevent employers from retaliating against workers who refused to share salary information and create a grant program to train women on salary negotiations.

1819 News reached out to Whitt and Lovvorn for comment. Neither responded. 

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