US women soccer players say judge ‘penalised’ them for their success in equal pay battle

Case has been appealed by team members who are competing for gold in Tokyo

Graeme Massie
Los Angeles
Friday 23 July 2021 23:42
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“We need to play better” USWNT on shock defeat to Sweden at the Olympics

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Players for the US women’s national soccer team have appealed a judge’s decision to dismiss their equal pay claim and say it penalised them for their success.

The appeal again puts them up against their employers and comes as the team competes for an Olympic gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics.

The US Soccer Federation was sued in 2019 by 28 current and former national team players, who claimed they had been underpaid compared to the much less successful men’s team.

But the case was thrown out by district court judge R Gary Klausner, who ruled that the women had agreed to a different contract structure that favoured salaries over per-game bonuses.

In his ruling the judge stated that he believed players for the women’s team had actually earned more per-game than the men.

Now the players have appealed the case to California’s US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

In their appeal brief they say that the women only got paid more because they won more, but that their available bonuses were less than the men’s team.

During 2015 to 2019, the period covered by the lawsuit, the women’s team won two World Cups, while the men failed to qualify for any.

“The court did not account for performance - specifically, that the women had to be the best in the world to make about the same amount per game as the much less successful men,” the appeal states.

The brief argues that the judge had ignored evidence of “direct discrimination”

“The employer cannot offer its female employees a lower hourly wage, or a lower commission rate, and expect them to work more hours, sell more shoes, or both, to earn the same total compensation as the male employees,” it states.

“The district court, in effect, used the women’s successes against them,” the appeal brief continues. “That was wrong as a matter of law.”

“We believe in our case and know our value,” star player Megan Rapinoe said in a statement

“It’s time the USSF does too.”

The women’s team lost their opening game of the Olympic tournament 3-0 to Sweden, breaking a 44-game winning streak.

It plays its next game against New Zealand on Saturday.

In a statement US Soccer said that it was “committed to equal pay and to ensuring that our Women’s National Team remains the best in the world.”

“In ruling in favor of US Soccer on the players’ pay discrimination claims, the District Court rightly noted that the Women’s National Team negotiated for a different pay structure than the Men’s National Team, and correctly held that the Women’s National Team was paid more both cumulatively and on an average per-game basis than the Men’s National Team,” they said.

“US Soccer is a non-profit with a mission to grow the game for every player, regardless of age, gender or ability level.

“The focus today is on supporting the Women’s National Team in their quest to win a fifth Olympic Gold Medal. Moving ahead, we will continue to seek a resolution to this matter outside of court so we can chart a positive path forward with the players to grow the game both here at home and around the world.”

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