Five members of the U.S. women’s national soccer team (USWNT) have filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), alleging unlawful wage discrimination by the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF). They allege that they are paid substantially less than members of the U.S. men’s national soccer team (USMNT), despite generating significantly more revenue in recent years than the men’s team. They are asserting their claim on behalf of all members of the USWNT. The EEOC will investigate the claim, and it may decide to pursue the claim on the players’ behalf. Otherwise, it will issue a “right to sue” letter, allowing the players to file a private cause of action.
Under the Equal Pay Act (EPA), employers are generally prohibited from paying employees of one gender less than employees of another gender for the same work. The statute allows exceptions to this rule if the difference in wages is based on a system of seniority, merit, or “quantity or quality of production,” or on the vaguely worded “any other factor other than sex.” 29 U.S.C. § 206(d)(1). The USWNT players’ complaint essentially argues that they have produced a superior “quality of production” yet are paid significantly less than their male colleagues.
The USWNT, which was formed in 1985, is one of the world’s most successful soccer teams. It has won three World Cup titles, most recently in Canada in 2015, and four Olympic gold medals, most recently in London in 2012. The final game of the 2015 World Cup, in which the USWNT beat the Japanese team 5-2, drew more than 53,000 spectators and around 23 million television viewers.
The USMNT has existed in some form for about 100 years longer than its female counterpart. While it has qualified for every World Cup competition since the U.S. hosted the tournament in 1994, it has never won a title in that or any other major competition. Its best World Cup result was a third-place finish in Uruguay in 1930.
According to the USSF’s 2015 financial statement, as reported by the New York Times and other media sources, the USWNT brought in about $20 million more in revenue than the USMNT. The men’s team actually posted a loss last year. The projected net profit from the USWNT for fiscal year 2017 is reportedly $5 million, while the USMNT is expected to lose about $1 million.
Despite this substantial disparity in revenue generated by each team, players for the USMNT are allegedly paid about four times as much overall as USWNT players. The New York Times reports, for example, that female players receive $3,600 per game with a $1,350 win bonus, while the corresponding numbers for male players are $5,000 and $8,166. Bonuses for World Cup appearances range from $20,000 to $75,000 for female players, and $52,083 to $390,625 for male players.
The USWNT’s players’ union sought a new collective bargaining agreement, with a guarantee of equal pay, in early 2016. The USSF responded with a lawsuit against the union, U.S. Soccer Fed’n v. U.S. Women’s Nat’l Soccer Team Players Ass’n, No. 1:16-cv-01923, complaint (N.D. Ill., Feb. 3, 2016). The players filed their EEOC complaint, which alleges violations of the EPA, after the USSF filed its lawsuit.
If you need to speak to a gender discrimination attorney in New Jersey or New York, contact the Resnick Law Group today through our website, at 973-781-1204, or at 646-867-7997.
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