Legal action lodged by the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) over gender pay discrepancy has been thrown out by a federal judge, a blow which has surprised the defending World Cup football champions.
- A federal judge dismissed the unequal pay claims on the grounds that the women’s team chose a different pay deal to the men’s.
- The claim that the women’s team did not receive equal treatment in travel and medical support were upheld and will go to trial
- The women’s team intends to appeal the decision on equal pay
Players led by captain Alex Morgan sued in March 2019, claiming they had not been paid equally under their collective bargaining agreement (CBA) to what the men’s national team received under its deal.
They asked for more than $100 million in damages under the US’s Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
US District Judge R Gary Klausner granted in part a motion for partial summary judgment by the US Soccer Federation.
He threw out the Equal Pay Act allegations but left intact the Civil Rights Act claims.
“The history of negotiations between the parties demonstrates that the WNT rejected an offer to be paid under the same pay-to-play structure as the MNT, and the WNT was willing to forgo higher bonuses for benefits, such as greater base compensation and the guarantee of a higher number of contracted players,” Judge Klausner wrote.
“Accordingly, plaintiffs cannot now retroactively deem their CBA worse than the MNT CBA by reference to what they would have made had they been paid under the MNT’s pay-to-play terms structure when they themselves rejected such a structure.”
Molly Levinson, spokeswoman for the women’s players, said the players were “shocked and disappointed” with the ruling.
“We are confident in our case and steadfast in our commitment to ensuring that girls and women who play this sport will not be valued as lesser just because of their gender,” she said.
While the USWNT are the most successful women’s international football team, with four World Cup titles under their belt including the past two, the US men did not even qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
The United States Soccer Federation (USSF) argued the women actually made more than the men both overall and by game average, and the women claimed they should have the same bonus structure as the men.
“Merely comparing what WNT players received under their own CBA with what they would have received under the MNT CBA discounts the value that the team placed on guaranteed benefits they receive under their agreement, which they opted for at the expense of higher performance-based bonuses,” Judge Klausner wrote.
“This issue is insufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact for trial.”
Judge Klausner also addressed the claim that the women faced discrimination by being scheduled to play more games on artificial turf than the men.
He said there was not sufficient evidence to show that decisions on field surface were made for discriminatory reasons.
Additional claims by the USWNT that the USSF discriminated in the money it spent on commercial airfare, hotel accommodations and medical and training support services were upheld by the judge and will be heard at trial on June 16 in federal court in Los Angeles.
Judge Klausner rejected the USSF’s argument that the men had a competitive need for charter flights that the women lacked.
The USSF argued that the men, who have struggled in World Cup qualifying, have more need for charters than the women in order to arrive more rested for their qualifiers.
“This rationale does not fully explain the gross disparity on money spent on airfare and hotels for the teams,” Judge Klausner wrote.
The USSF said spending in these areas had been equal since the women’s union agreed to a new labour deal in 2017.
The women’s team players intend to appeal the decision against the Equal Pay Act claim, a move that could delay the trial into 2021 or later.