Alison Bath is based in Naples, Italy, and reports on the U.S. Navy in Europe and Africa for Stars and Stripes.

Alison Bath is based in Naples, Italy, and reports on the U.S. Navy in Europe and Africa for Stars and Stripes. (Stars and Stripes)

A Stars and Stripes report on the barriers to employment for U.S. military spouses in Italy earned an award from Military Reporters and Editors, the professional group announced Wednesday.

The February 2022 story headlined “Sexism and the SOFA: How a 71-year-old US military treaty and Italy’s rules derail women’s careers,” by Naples, Italy-based reporter Alison Bath took top honors in the organization’s small newspaper category for overseas coverage.

Bath, who reports on the U.S. Navy in Europe and Africa, wrote that military spouses in Italy are forced to choose between working off base and retaining their rights under the NATO Status of Forces Agreement.

In most other countries where U.S. forces are typically based, spouses are allowed to work off base and retain their SOFA privileges. About 92% of military spouses are women, according to data compiled in recent years.

Spouses also were legally barred from teleworking for a U.S. employer while residing in Italy under the SOFA. That changed in September, when an exchange of letters between the American and Italian governments granted spouses the right to telecommute.

A follow-up investigation published in August 2023 examined how the lack of overseas spousal employment pushes thousands of families under the poverty line and creates a system in which spouses sometimes work full time without pay for military organizations, which tout the benefits of keeping their skills current.

Meanwhile, spouses who hold green cards may be excluded from base jobs because they are citizens of countries like Japan while living in Europe, even in areas of critical need, such as day care.

Before joining Stars and Stripes, Bath reported for publications in Montana, Nevada and Louisiana and served as editor of newspapers in Louisiana, Oregon and Washington state.

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