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As some states have adjourned their legislative sessions and others are coming close to an end, we are celebrating the passing of legislation that promotes equitable workplaces and supports working families while rooting for other states to follow suit.

Maryland passes legislation to help parents meet child care cost and strengthen MeToo protections

The Maryland legislature recently passed a bill that would improve the state’s child and dependent care tax credit by increasing the income phase-outs for eligible families and by making the credit refundable for families with incomes of $50,000 or less ($75,000 if married filing jointly). NWLC submitted testimony in support of the bill, which is now awaiting Governor Hogan’s signature. This revision to the tax code will enable low- and moderate- income families to access benefits that help them pay for child care and ensure that families with little to no tax liability can fully benefit from the credit. Child care is essential to parents being able to get and keep a job and children having a strong start to success in school.  With this legislation, Maryland joins many other states that have been working to improve supports for working families needing child care.

In addition to child care, having safe and dignified workplaces is critical to the success of working families. Many working people have been left without legal recourse in the face of sexual harassment because they aren’t covered by anti-harassment protections, or they aren’t able to meet the short deadline for filing a complaint because they fear retaliation or because of the trauma they are experiencing. In addition, the Supreme Court’s Vance decision has limited victims’ ability to obtain legal redress when they experience sexual harassment by low-level supervisors.

Recognizing this, the Maryland General Assembly passed MeToo legislation that, among other provisions, extends anti-harassment protections to all employers regardless of their size, and to independent contractors. The bill also extends the statute of limitations for filing a complaint, providing 2 years to file a complaint with a local human relations commission and 3 years to file suit in court. Additionally, the bill makes employers liable for discrimination and harassment by employees with the authority to affect another employee’s workplace through activities beyond hiring and firing, like directing, supervising, or evaluating the employee’s work. These provisions will help ensure workers have the tools they need to hold employers accountable when workplace harassment occurs. On April 30, Governor Hogan signed the bill into law bringing us all a step closer to reaching the goal of advancing concrete protections against sexual harassment and violence in #20statesby2020.

Maine passes legislation ending the harmful practice of relying on salary history to set pay

Maine is officially the 8th state to pass legislation prohibiting employers from relying on job applicants’ salary history when determining a new employee’s salary. Setting a person’s salary based on what another employer happened to pay them instead of their job and qualifications is a practice that forces women and people of color to carry pay discrimination and gender and racial wage gaps from job to job. With the governor’s signature, Maine has taken an important step towards promoting equity, and ensuring women and their families are not losing pay due to wage gaps.

Massachusetts is fighting for a fair workweek

Earlier in the month, Julie Vogtman, NWLC’s Director of Job Quality, testified in support of Massachusetts bill S. 1110, the “Fair Workweek Act,” which would provide more stable, predictable, and adequate work hours for people working in the retail, restaurant, and hospitality industries. The bill would combat the “just-in-time” scheduling practices that are prevalent in these industries and are particularly harmful for women, who are more likely than men to hold low-wage jobs and to shoulder the bulk of caregiving responsibilities in families. Oregon and cities like Seattle, New York City, and Philadelphia have enacted similar legislation to ensure that working families have schedules that work for their lives – we hope Massachusetts can be next.

Texas wants to prohibit employers from discriminating against employees based on reproductive decisions

In April, a Texas House committee held a hearing on a bill that would help ensure that Texans are able to make the decision about whether, when, and how to have children, without fear of being fired. HB 1478 would prohibit employers from discriminating against employees because of their reproductive decisions. This means that, for example, a boss couldn’t fire an employee for using birth control or in vitro fertilization.

HB 1478 is a welcome reprieve amid a sea of awful Texas legislation attacking reproductive health care. Other bills that Texas has seen this session include one that would permit health care providers and other licensed professionals to discriminate against LGBTQ folks and deny people reproductive health care; one that would prohibit government entities from entering any kind of contract with abortion providers; and one that would have made abortion punishable by death.

While we continue to decry these dangerous attacks, we applaud Texas lawmakers who support HB 1478 and won’t give up protecting Texans who need reproductive health care!

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