You’ve Come A Long Way…maybe?

Wage Discrimination Suit Filed by 5 Members of U.S. Soccer Women’s Team

Before Title IX, one of the few places for women in professional and collegiate sports was on the sidelines, as a cheerleader.  After Title IX was signed into law in June 1972, there’s been an explosion of opportunity for female athletes, with numerous varied scholarships and increased budgets for women’s sporting leagues, leading to an ever increasing number of professional teams for women to earn and compete on an elite international level.

Many remember the excitement of the victory of U.S. Soccer’s women’s team against China in the final 1999 World Cup, or when 26 million viewers tuned into the momentous 2015 World Cup win for the women’s team; the most watched soccer game in history.With such a stellar record, it is a surprise that five players on the U.S. Soccer women’s team in 2016 were forced to file a federal complaint for wage discrimination. According to a filing made public March 31, 2016, the women’s team is paid as much as 40 percent less than their male counterparts when it comes to per diem, bonuses, appearance fees, and ticket revenues.

The U.S. Soccer Federation claims that this is really a contract issue.  However, it appears that women in soccer are compensated differently from the male players, despite the women’s team having won three World Cups and being the defending Olympic champions.  The men’s team has never made it into the World Cup quarterfinals since placing third in 1930, the first World Cup game!

Looking more closely at the numbers, the women’s top tier players are paid a salary of $72,000, for a minimum of 20 games played per year, with bonuses of $1,305 available, if the team wins and with team veterans taking a larger share of the bonus pool.  No bonus is paid if the women’s team loses a game. On the other hand, men receive no annual salary, but will receive a $5,000 bonus, per game, regardless of the outcome.  The men’s team also receives a bonus based upon the level of the opposition team and whether they win or tie the game.  A male player could lose every one of the 20 played games and still receive $100,000 in bonus compensation, $27,000 more in compensation than a woman in the same scenario and still more even if the women’s team won all of their games! This is a wage discrepancy of 38%, and we’re not even considering appearance fees, per diem, bonuses related to qualifying for the Olympic team, or ticket revenues.

Wages should be based upon skill, performance, and merit, not gender.  If you feel that you are being paid less for accomplishing the same work product as your male counterpart, you might have legal recourse.  Speak to an attorney to find out how you might be protected and to help you file a charge with the appropriate reporting agencies. Our attorneys are experienced at litigating employment law claims, as well as representing employees in the administrative processes through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in both the private and federal sector, and state and local equal employment commission and merit system boards. Contact attorney Neil Henrichsen at nhenrichsen@hslawyers.com

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