Equal Pay for Superior Play: The Women’s National Soccer Team’s Fight for Equality

Following their win at the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France on July 7, 2019, the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team returns home to another battle: a federal pay discrimination lawsuit against their employer, the United States Soccer Federation, Inc. See Morgan, et al. v. United States Soccer Federation, Inc., No. 2:19-CV-01717 (C.D. Cal filed Mar. 8, 2019).

In 2016, five U.S. women’s soccer players filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), alleging gender discrimination. They received the right to sue from the EEOC in February 2019.

On March 8, 2019, the twenty-eight players on the United States Women’s National Soccer Team brought a class action lawsuit against the United States Soccer Federation for violations of the Equal Pay Act and violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, Western Division, alleges that female professional soccer players who play on the Women’s National Soccer Team are paid less and treated less favorably than the men on the Men’s National Soccer Team, despite the fact that both female and male players have the same job responsibilities while playing for the Federation.

According to the complaint, a top-tier female player earns only 38% of the compensation of a similarly situated male player.

The complaint asserts “[t]his is true even though [the Women’s National Soccer Team’s] performance has been superior to that of the male players—with the female players, in contrast to male players, becoming world champions.” Of course, after the recent World Cup win, this allegation holds even more force.

The United States Soccer Federation concedes that the male and female players are paid differently but has said it’s impossible to compare the teams because the pay structures for the two teams are different.

In June, the parties agreed to mediation in hopes of reaching an amicable solution. After winning their fourth World Cup championship, the Women’s National Soccer Team has new leverage—their recent win only solidifies their prominence, scoring higher viewership and revenue than the men’s team. If mediation fails, however, the legal proceedings will continue down a path to a jury trial. For now, soccer fans across the United States and the world will continue to watch the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, with many hoping for a win in the courtroom to match their wins on the field.

All workers, regardless of their gender and gender identity, deserve to be treated fairly at work and to be paid equally.

Although we do not represent the Women’s National Soccer Team, Nichols Kaster’s Individual Practice Group is proud to represent employees facing pay discrimination at work. Click here for more information.