I truly enjoyed watching the FIFA World Cup. The excitement, energy, and sheer athletic prowess associated with this year’s tournament was phenomenal. For those that did not watch, the United States women went undefeated and took home the World Cup for the second consecutive time. This week, they returned to the States to a ticker-tape parade in New York and praise from fans.
There’s another thing that the Women’s team is returning to – something that I’ve found to be in the “background” of the dialogue on the World Cup. The pending lawsuit against the sport’s governing body seeking equal pay. The following is a quick recap on their claims:
- Twenty-eight named members of Women’s soccer team filed their claim in 2019 in federal court (Central District of California – Western Division). Named plaintiffs include 2015 MVP Carli Lloyd and 2019 MVP Megan Rapinoe. The actual suit alleges that there are at least twenty-two (22) other plaintiffs that have been similarly harmed.
- The suit is filed against the United States Soccer Federation, Inc. (“USSF”). The USSF is the employer for professional soccer players in the U.S., determining the rate of pay for both women and men playing on the Women and Men’s National teams.
- The lawsuit alleges violations of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It claims that over the past 17 years, the Women’s team members have been paid almost 300% less than the Men’s team for each game played ($6,250 per game versus $17,625 per game). The lawsuit also alleges that the Women’s team members were paid $15,000 for being asked to try out for the team and making the roster while men were paid a minimum of $55,000 or up to $68,750.
- According to the lawsuit, the Women’s team has a heavier match and appearance schedule, given the exponential success of their efforts internationally. They were not compensated for these additional demands nor provided with the same amount of chartered flights as the Men’s team.
What is the Women’s team really asking for? From a monetary perspective, the suit seeks salary adjustment/equalization as well as back pay, damages, and attorney’s fees. The suit also seeks equitable relief including an injunction and declaratory judgment to stop the alleged illegal actions.
For me, this lawsuit is one to watch. Although the pay disparity between men and women’s sports has always been known – there has not been a case where such a commercially successful group of athletes have pursued remedies legally. Now that the Women’s team is back, the parties will start discovery and moving the lawsuit forward. Information that comes forward during this process may compel a settlement – or at the least, bring unfavorable information to light. Stay tuned.
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