Since, 1963, when it comes to compensating men and women in the U.S., the law of the land has been “equal pay for equal work”. If only it were that simple.
On March 8, 2019, all 28 players on the women’s national soccer team initiated a proposed class and collective action in federal court against the U.S. Soccer Federation. Interestingly, the players chose to file suit on International Women’s Day, which is intended to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, as well as to raise awareness of gender equality issues.
The players are alleging discrimination based on sex in violation of the Equal Pay Act (EPA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended. These female athletes are being paid less than the men’s team, in some cases earning just 38 percent of pay per game even though the women’s team has generated more profits and revenue than the men’s soccer team, in addition to having won three World Cup titles and four Olympic gold medals. The complaint goes on to state that the female players spend more time practicing for and playing in matches, training in camps, traveling, and participating in media sessions than similarly situated male players – all while earning less pay.
The complaint cites the following, “A comparison of the WNT and MNT pay shows that if each team played 20 friendlies in a year and each team won all twenty friendlies, female WNT players would earn a maximum of $99,000 or $4,950 per game, while similarly situated male MNT players would earn an average of $263,320 or $13,166 per game against the various levels of competition they would face.” The direct comparisons of compensation between the men and women can be tricky though as each team has its own collective bargaining agreement with the U.S. Soccer, which among the major differences is pay structure. The men receive higher bonuses when they play for the U.S., but are paid only when they make the team, while the women receive guaranteed salaries supplemented by smaller match bonuses.”
Federal law prohibits discriminatory employment practices based on sex. Under the EPA, men and women in the same workplace must be given equal pay for equal work and Title VII also makes it unlawful to discriminate based on sex regarding pay and benefits.
As stated by Megan Rapinoe, midfielder/winger who plays for the National Women’s Soccer League, “We very much believe it is our responsibility, not only for our team and for future U.S. players, but for players around the world – and frankly women all around the world – to feel like they have an ally in standing up for themselves, and fighting for what they believe in, and fighting for what they deserve and for what they feel like they have earned.”