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U.S. Soccer Says Women’s Lesser Pay Due to Revenue, Not Sex (1)

May 7, 2019, 2:38 PMUpdated: May 7, 2019, 4:35 PM

Any disparity in pay received by U.S. women’s and men’s soccer players is based on differences in the aggregate revenue their respective teams generate, not sex, the U.S. Soccer Federation says.

Players on the two teams are also compensated under “fundamentally different pay structures for performing different work,” the organization said May 6 in its answer to a class discrimination lawsuit filed by 28 women players. Women and men are paid under separate collective bargaining agreements that impose different responsibilities and obligations on the players, U.S. Soccer says.

Women earn guaranteed salaries and benefits under their agreement. Men are paid strictly on a “pay-for-play” match-appearance basis, the organization says.

The women’s team “has consistently rejected” adoption of a pay-for-play compensation structure, most recently during 2017 contract negotiations, U.S. Soccer says.

The 28 women sued the organization March 8 in federal court in Los Angeles on behalf of themselves and all other similarly situated current and former women’s team players. The lawsuit alleges that women players are paid substantially less than men’s players based on sex despite their superior success. The women’s team is currently ranked No. 1 in the world and are defending Women’s World Cup champions.

U.S. Soccer “cannot justify its violation of the Equal Pay Act and Title VII by pointing to the teams’ separate collective bargaining agreements or any factor other than sex,” a spokesperson for the players told Bloomberg Law in a May 7 email. The organization “treats the women’s team as ‘less-than’ equal compared to their male colleagues” despite its status “as the most decorated American soccer team in history,” the spokesperson said. “We look forward to a trial next year after the World Cup.”

But U.S. Soccer says that the different locations and times the teams play and the different “quantities and qualities of international competition” they face also make comparing their levels of compensation impossible under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Women’s team players “have no male ‘counterparts’ that play” for the men’s team, the organizations says.

Women’s team goalie Hope Solo also has a separate pay bias lawsuit pending against U.S. Soccer. The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation is currently weighing whether to consolidate the two cases.

Judge Gary Klausner of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, who’s presiding over the proposed class action, April 30 rejected a bid by U.S. Soccer to stay proceedings until the judicial panel makes its decision. The panel’s decision likely won’t come “until later this year,” Klausner said.

Winston and Strawn LLP represent the women players. Seyfarth Shaw LLP represents U.S. Soccer.

The case is Morgan et al v. U.S. Soccer Fed’n, Inc., C.D. Cal., No. 2:19-cv-01717, answer filed 5/6/19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Dorrian in Washington at pdorrian@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bloomberglaw.com; Nicholas Datlowe at ndatlowe@bloomberglaw.com