The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team (WNT) has sued the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) for gender discrimination in the United States District of Los Angeles, citing unequal pay between the WNT and the Men’s National Team (MNT), despite the WNT outperforming the MNT in revenue in 2015. The named plaintiffs in the suit include notable star players such as Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe.
The WNT states two causes of action in its complaint. The first is a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, as amended by the Equal Pay Act, claiming that USSF engaged in systemic gender-based pay discrimination against the WNT. The WNT is bringing this claim as a collective action claim, with the named plaintiffs seeking to represent the class of similarly represented women. For this count, the plaintiffs are seeking back pay, liquidated damages, pre-judgement and post-judgement interest, and attorneys’ fees and costs.
The second claim is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, claiming that USSF discriminated against the WNT on the basis of sex. This claim is being brought as a class action, with the named plaintiffs looking to represent the class of women against whom they allege were discriminated by the USSF. For this count, the plaintiffs are seeking damages for the alleged unlawful conduct, exemplary and punitive damages, a permanent injunction, a declaratory judgment, an adjustment of wages and benefits, costs incurred from the suit, and pre-judgment and post-judgement interest.
In support of its claims, the plaintiffs identify the success and prominence of the WNT on the international stage, including three World Cup wins and participation in the most watched soccer game in American television history, and the revenues generated for USSF as a result. The men’s team, by comparison, has not advanced beyond the World Cup quarterfinals since 1930.
The complaint also states that the WNT perform the same job and duties with similar conditions to the MNT. The rules of their competitions are the same, and the women’s team actually competed in more competitions, and thus more practices, because of their on-field success. Despite the higher-level of tournament success, the bonus compensation structure still resulted in the WNT earning three times less compensation. According to the complaint, each team played and won 20 non-tournament games a year, the WNT would make 38% of the MNT.
The WNT also alleges that it received worse working conditions compared to the MNT, which include training and travelling conditions, game promotion, and support and development.
Andrew Distell is a Sports Highlight Contributor for the Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law and a current first year student at Harvard Law School (Class of 2021).