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USWNT Prepares For Mediation After U.S. Soccer Claims Women Are Paid More Than Men

On March 8, 28 players filed a complaint in the US District Court in Los Angeles asserting that US Soccer practices gender-based pay-discrimination in their national team programs. The players allege that US Soccer has violated the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. For more on the details of the case, check out USWNT Fight For Equality In The US While Taking On The World In The World Cup.

Players allege in their complaint that US Soccer is not providing equal pay for equal work. US Soccer has made it clear that it focuses on providing equitable and fair compensation.

In an open letter, US Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro stated, “US Soccer believes that all female athletes deserve fair and equitable pay, and we strive to meet this core value at all times.”

The WNT players assert that the law requires equal pay, not equitable pay. A spokesperson for the Players, Molly Levinson, stated “The USSF has repeatedly admitted that it does not pay the women equally and that it does not believe the women even deserve to be paid equally. This is why they use words like ‘fair and equitable,’ not equal in describing pay.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row equal_height=”yes” content_placement=”middle”][vc_column][vc_column_text]The Players have alleged violations of both the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The Equal Pay Act requires that an employer pays the all employees the same when the performance of the job “requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions.”

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination by employers based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

For more about how the players allege violations of these laws, check out USWNT Fight For Equality In The US While Taking On The World In The World Cup.

On July 29, 2019, US Soccer made its first public response to the complaint and the alleged violations of law. US Soccer President Cordeiro has made it clear US Soccer does not believe it violated the laws because the roles and responsibilities of the men’s players and the women’s players are substantially different.

Cordeiro stated, “FIFA competitions for men and women include a different number of games each year, at different times, in different locations, against different opponents with different FIFA rankings and different tournaments with different qualifying criteria and different prize money.”

US Soccer may have difficulty defending this position if the lawsuit progresses to court. Cordeiro places the burden on the FIFA schedule and implies that since the men and women play in different games against different opponents is enough not to violate the law. The Equal Pay Act states that as long as a job requires “requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions.” To win this argument in court, US Soccer will have to show that to be a member of the WNT requires substantially different skill, effort, and responsibility from those members of the men’s team. This appears to be a challenging argument for US Soccer to win.

US Soccer also provided a fact sheet they suggest shows that they pay the members of the WNT more than the men. US Soccer claims that from 2010 to 2018, the women were paid $34.1 million in salaries and game bonuses, and the men were paid $26.4 million. The WNT contests these numbers.

When you dig into the numbers provided by US Soccer, many questions arise. When calculating the total payment made to the two teams, US Soccer included payment of National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) salaries for members of the WNT. The payment of these salaries are conducted under a separate agreement between US Soccer and NWSL. The salaries for playing in a club league is not a factor in the lawsuit alleged by the players.

US Soccer also brings in the topic of FIFA prize money. The disparity between the men and women prize money provided by FIFA is drastic. However, the prize money offered by FIFA is not a significant factor in the lawsuit or the alleged violations of the law. The Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act focus on the payment by the employer. The employer in this situation is US Soccer, and therefore, the focus should remain on how US Soccer pays the players.

US Soccer also discusses differences in the Collective Bargaining Agreements (“CBA”) between the MNT and the WNT. This is the most persuasive argument US Soccer has to show that the disparity in payment is not based on sex but rather negotiated and agreed to by the parties. This is one hurdle that the WNT will have to overcome if they will be successful in the lawsuit.

Despite the back and forth between US Soccer and the WNT, the best way to move forward for both sides is to find a compromise. The upcoming mediation is aimed at doing just that.

The WNT is involved in a labor battle that is not dissimilar to the labor battles seen in other sports leagues through the years. The NFL has shown one potential option for the WNT that would allow them to renegotiate the CBA and gain additional leverage in the fight for higher pay and benefits. For more on this option check out USWNT Set Sights On Fight For Equal Pay In Upcoming Mediation With U.S. Soccer

The battle between players and management is not unique to the women’s game or soccer. Over the years, athletes in every major sport in North America have had to take a stand and fight for better rights, better treatment, and better pay. The WNT and female athletes in all sports have the benefit of seeing the results of the labor battles of the past and find new ways to shape the future. Ultimately, it is advantageous for both US Soccer and the WNT to work together to improve the wages and working conditions of the record-breaking athletes.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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