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Women’s Soccer Players Win Bid to Keep Pay Suit in LA (1)

July 2, 2019, 2:28 PMUpdated: July 2, 2019, 6:44 PM

The pay discrimination suit by Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, and other Women’s National Team players against the U.S. Soccer Federation Inc. will stay in the Los Angeles federal court where it was filed.

The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California July 1 denied U.S. Soccer’s request to move the players’ proposed class suit to the Northern District of California, where former goalie Hope Solo filed a similar suit earlier.

The Northern District lacks connections with the suit, the Central District said.

U.S. Soccer said the players’ suit should be transferred to the Northern District of California because Solo’s suit was filed first and the two suits are virtually identical.

But U.S. Soccer previously has argued that the Northern District isn’t a proper venue because it has few links to the pay discrimination litigation, the court here said.

“Because Defendant contends that the two actions are identical, it logically follows that this action also lacks connections to the Northern District,” the court said.

By contrast, the Central District has numerous connections to the case. The women’s team plays and trains in the Central District, and important witnesses live there, the order said.

Additionally, Solo’s counsel has said she would allow the former goalie’s case to be transferred to the Central District, further supporting the conclusion that the Central District is the most practical, it said.

“We are pleased the Court denied USSF’s motion to transfer and that the matter will remain in the Central District,” Molly Levinson, player spokesperson, said in an email.

Seyfarth Shaw, the firm representing U.S. Soccer, didn’t respond to a request for a comment.

The 28 players allege U.S. Soccer, the employer for the U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Teams, publicly pays “lip service” to gender equality while paying women’s team members just 38% on average of what men’s team members get. The disparity continues despite the women’s unparalleled success in World Cup, Olympic, and other competitions, they allege.

The team is currently participating in the FIFA Women’s World Cup, where they’re slated to face England in the semi-final match on July 2.

The players sought to have their suit formally combined with Solo’s, but the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation denied that request in June.

U.S. Soccer says any pay disparity is based on the lower aggregate revenue generated by the women’s team compared with the men’s. The women also have “consistently rejected” a pay-for-play compensation structure that’s used to set the pay of men’s team players, the organization says.

U.S. Soccer also says Solo earned more money than her counterparts on the U.S. Men’s National Team.

The cases could inspire other professional women’s sports teams experiencing pay inequity to file claims, but women’s soccer is unique in that the men’s and women’s teams are similarly situated in terms of revenue and popularity, lawyers previously told Bloomberg Law.

Winston and Strawn LLP represents Morgan and the others. Kaufman Dolowich & Voluck LLP and Richard M. Nichols PC represent Solo. Seyfarth Shaw LLP represents U.S. Soccer.

The case is Morgan v. U.S. Soccer Fed., Inc., C.D. Cal., No. 19-1717, 7/1/19.

(Updated to reflect additional reporting.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Julie Steinberg in Washington at jsteinberg@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bloomberglaw.com; Steven Patrick at spatrick@bloomberglaw.com

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