Part 1: Biggest unequal pay story in the news: Women’s soccer

The U.S Women’s National Soccer Team (WNT) recently won the World Cup against the Netherlands. But right behind the win, the media has widely covered the lawsuit filed in March by 28 of the female soccer players against its employer, the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF).

Wage-based discrimination allegations

The collective- and class-action suit alleges that, because USSF pays the U.S Men’s National Soccer Team (MNT) much higher income than the WNT and provides better terms, conditions, and benefits of employment, the USSF is violating federal laws prohibiting unequal pay between employees based on gender. Specifically, the women’s complaint alleges sex discrimination based on wage disparity in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and violation of the Equal Pay Act, part of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Terms and conditions of employment

Some of the alleged unequal terms and conditions include those concerning training, medical support, coaching, level of comfort during flights, location, frequency of games, and others.

WNT brings in more money

The complaint emphasizes and describes several ways that the WNT outperforms the MNT, such as that the women “earned more profit, played more games, won more games, earned more championships, and/or garnered higher television audiences.” There has been much speculation about this in the media. While from a generic fairness standard, this makes the pay disparity seem even more egregious, it will be interesting to see if the court finds it relevant under these laws (unless the case settles instead).

Apples to oranges?

The New York Times reports that some of the comparisons between the two teams are complex. For example, they have different collective bargaining agreements with USSF with different pay structures. And World Cup bonuses pay differently, but those are set by FIFA, world soccer’s governing body, not USSF.

The actual complaint, which the plaintiffs filed in the U.S District Court in Los Angeles, is accessible from The New York Times article.

The federal Equal Pay Act applies to almost every employer, while Title VII applies to most employers with at least 15 employees. In Part 2 of this post, we will talk about Kentucky equal pay law and how it differs.


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