The 28 players on the U.S. women’s national soccer team filed a gender discrimination lawsuit in March in California district court against the United States Soccer Federation. The lawsuit follows years of players receiving less in pay than their male counterparts on the U.S. men’s team, as well as worse conditions for travel, benefits, coaching, medical treatment and more.
While five of the players filed a wage-discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 2016, they sought a right-to-sue letter after no action resulted from their complaint. Now, this federal lawsuit could provide potentially both present and former players with compensation in the form of back pay, damages and more.
The disparities between team bonuses
The U.S. women’s team has continually performed more successfully than the men’s team in recent years. The team has three World Cup titles and four Olympic medals to their name. In comparison, the men’s team has not won either title.
One of the more staggering differences reported in the pay between the U.S. men’s and women’s teams comes in the form of the team bonuses. Despite the women’s team winning the World Cup in 2015, Quartz reported that the team received a bonus of $1.725 million. Just a year earlier, after the men’s team lost in the World Cup’s Round of 16, the same organization paid the team a bonus of $5.375 million.
Complications in directly comparing the pay of the two teams
However, The New York Times reports that directly comparing the compensation of the men’s and women’s teams can be more complicated than it appears. Because each team has its own collective bargaining agreement with the U.S. Soccer Federation, there are differences in each team’s agreement and notably, key differences on pay structure. While the men’s team receives higher bonuses, players only receive such bonuses when they make the U.S. team. By contrast, players on the women’s team receives a salary regardless but this is in exchange for making smaller bonuses.
While the women’s team faces substantial obstacles in pursuing a workable resolution, the lawsuit offers the team a chance to be heard after several years of inaction on the matter. Ultimately, the team hopes to prove that because they do the same work as the men’s team, they deserve both equal pay and working conditions.