Last Wednesday, US Women’s Soccer players, Hope Solo, Carli Lloyd Becky Sauerbrunn, Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe made national headlines. This time the news was not to celebrate their most recent World Cup Championship or their training for the 2016 Olympics, which they are favored to win. The five world champions have joined in a lawsuit against their employer, US Soccer for wage discrimination. They have filed a complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging that they are paid much lower than their counterparts on the US Men’s Soccer team, despite their past 20 years of outperforming them on the international stage.
In their complaint, the five female players cite that the Women’s team has become the primary income earner for US Soccer, despite being paid less than half the salary of the male players. US Soccer has disputed the claims of the Plaintiffs and their attorney, insisting that their complaint is hinged on the success of a few exceptional years of success and not the broad history of the sport as a whole. However, since 1991 when the first Women’s World Cup was held, the US team has dominated the international stage, winning three World Cup championships and four Olympic Gold medals. In 1999, female soccer legend, Mia Hamm led the women’s team to victory in front of a national television audience of over 25 million people, setting the record for the most viewed US Soccer game in history, including men’s soccer.
Like most major sports, women’s US Soccer pay agreements are based on collective bargaining agreements held between US Soccer and the players’ union. However, the previous agreement was set to expire in 2012 and the league and its women’s team has been operating on the expired agreement since then. The expired agreement was centered on guaranteed salaries and stability rather than the bonus-centered pay system that the men’s team have negotiated. Speaking of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, attorney for the women’s player association released a statement “In early January, the Women’s National Team Players Association submitted a reasonable proposal for a new CBA that had equal pay for equal work as its guiding principle. U.S. Soccer responded by suing the players in an effort to keep in place the discriminatory and unfair treatment they have endured for years.”
Other complaints regarding gender discrimination include hotel accommodations, scheduling and most recently an exhibition game in Hawaii to celebrate their World Cup victory that was cancelled due to the field conditions at the stadium. The EEOC will now investigate the charges in the complaint filed and determine whether the players have the right to sue US Soccer in court to recover any compensation they may be entitled to.
US Soccer players are not the only women to face pay discrimination in the workplace. Fair pay for women has been a hot-button issue for several years. Currently, it is estimated by US Census data that women employed in the same positions, make roughly 21% less in wages than their male counterparts. This percentage is based on nationwide median incomes of all workers in all positions, resulting in an average gap of 21%.
Discrimination based on color, gender, race, sexual orientation or perceived disability is illegal under both Florida and US Federal law. If you or someone you know is a victim of pay discrimination, the employment attorneys of Massey & Duffy, PLLC are here for you. Our attorneys have successfully won hundreds of cases involving discrimination and secured millions of dollars in compensation for our clients. Please call our office at (352) 505-8900 to schedule a FREE CONSULTATION.