U.S. Women’s National Team Equal Pay Case
As the U.S. Women's National Team ("USWNT") racks up wins at the SheBelieves Cup this week, their attorneys are gearing up for the trial in their Equal Pay case against the United States Soccer Federation ("USSF"). Exactly a year after the USWNT filed their lawsuit on International Women's Day (March 8, 2019), the parties are moving ever closer to trial—currently scheduled for May 5, 2020.
Over the past few months, the parties engaged in mediation, completed fact discovery, and filed competing motions for summary judgment. The parties' respective summary judgment motions could impact whether this case moves forward to trial.
Motion For Summary Judgment
In the USWNT's motion for summary judgment, the players allege their wage discrimination case has been proven, and they are owed an award of back pay and damages of $66,722,148. The USWNT's expert determined this amount by calculating the USWNT's performances, schedules, and results and determining what they would have been paid under the compensation schedule for the U.S. Men's National Team's agreement.
USSF, on the other hand, argued that it had proven its defenses to the USWNT's claims, primarily arguing that the reason for unequal pay was based on different market realities—i.e., the men make more because USSF generates more revenue in sponsorships, ticket sales, merchandising, and FIFA bonuses for the Men's Team.
Also underpinning USSF's arguments is their assertion that women's soccer is inferior to men's soccer—perpetuating the stigma against women's sports. During the depositions of Alex Morgan and Carli Lloyd, USSF's attorneys asked questions related to whether male players are faster, stronger, and thus better than female players. They also argued that the USWNT would not fare as well if they were competing in the men's league.
Headed To Trial
Who will prevail on these arguments is ultimately up to Judge R. Gary Klauser of the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. If he denies both motions, the parties will proceed to trial. If he grants the USWNT's motion, the parties will still move to trial on damages and the USWNT's unequal conditions claim.
A victory for USSF, however, would end the case. Whatever happens at the end of this case—to the extent the parties do not settle privately—will have a significant impact on women in all industries all over the world. The USWNT players have become icons—both on and off the field. They are looking to break a cycle of discrimination and bring to light the insidious barriers that women face in the workplace.
We should hear from Judge Klausner on the parties' motions in the next few weeks. Meanwhile, the attorneys, the players, and the USSF must prepare as if trial is going forward in May.
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