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US Soccer Women Ask Court to Move Forward With Pay Bias Pact

May 23, 2022, 1:27 PM

The US women’s soccer team and the sport’s governing body asked a federal judge to begin the process of approving their $24 million pay discrimination settlement.

The development comes after the players’ union and the US Soccer Federation Inc. reached a new collective bargaining pact that will equalize the women’s future pay with that received by the US men’s team. In a joint motion, the players and federation asked the US District Court for the Central District of California to indicate to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that it will preliminarily approve the settlement, or at least consider doing so.

That procedural move is necessary because the settlement was struck while the women’s March 2019 lawsuit was on appeal to the Ninth Circuit, so the appeals court still has jurisdiction of the case, the motion said. Indicating that a motion for preliminary approval will at least be entertained would allow the Ninth Circuit “to issue a limited remand” so the district court may consider the proposed settlement, the May 20 joint motion said.

WATCH: If Women Still Earn Less, Can Laws Even Fix the Pay Gap?

The filing includes a copy of the proposed settlement, which will pay $24 million to the team. That includes $22 million “in four equal interest-free installments,” beginning 15 business days after the new CBA is ratified and then three additional installments annually thereafter. The remaining $2 million will be deposited into an interest-bearing fund account to benefit the players in their pursuit of post-playing career goals and charitable endeavors related to women’s and girls’ soccer.

The settlement is contingent on ratification of the new CBA. US Soccer doesn’t admit to any liability on the women’s pay discrimination claims by agreeing to settle, according to the proposed pact.

Class counsel’s attorneys’ fees and litigation costs will be paid from the $22 million, the pact said. The remaining amount will be divided among the team members included in the class. US Soccer won’t take any position on the amounts of attorneys’ fees, litigation costs, or individual settlement payments to the players, the pact said.

Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, and their teammates announced their new CBA with US Soccer on May 18. The six-year union contract replaces the deal the women’s team had been playing under. The prior CBA spurred the women’s lawsuit, which alleged they were paid less than the men’s national soccer team despite performing equal work and enjoying much greater on-field success.

The new CBA’s provisions require equal rates of pay between the women’s and men’s team going forward for all “friendlies, all other games and tournaments, and in the Men’s and Women’s World Cups,” according to the proposed settlement agreement.

The district court had rejected the women’s claims under the Equal Pay Act and federal sex discrimination law in a May 2020 ruling, but the women appealed the pay bias claims to the Ninth Circuit.

Winston & Strawn LLP and Mayer Brown LLP represent the players. Latham & Watkins LLP represents US Soccer.

The case is Morgan v. U.S. Soccer Fed’n, Inc., C.D. Cal., No. 2:19-cv-01717, joint motion for indicative ruling 5/20/22.

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

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Patrick L. Gregory at pgregory@bloomberglaw.com; Carmen Castro-Pagán at ccastro-pagan@bloomberglaw.com