The U.S. Soccer Federation, the organization that employs the soccer players on both the Men's National Team and the Women's National Team, is being sued under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1965 by members of the women's team who are paid less than their male counterparts. The women suing have asked the Court to enter a judgment in their favor, which U.S. Soccer responded to this week.
The U.S Women's National Team are the reigning World Cup champions, having won the World Cup back to back in 2015 and 2019. The USWNT also won the World Cup in 1991 and 1999. The women's national team has placed first, second, or third in every World Cup to date, making them the most successful women's team in the world. The USWNT is currently ranked 1st by FIFA.
The U.S Men's National Team has not seen the same level of success as the men. The USMNT has never won a world cup and hasn't placed in a world cup since 1930. The USMNT failed to even qualify for the 2018 World Cup. The USMNT is currently ranked 22nd by FIFA.
From 206-2018, the women's team also brought in more revenue than the men's team.
Despite these relative successes, the women are alleging that U.S. Soccer pays the women players less than the men.
The Equal Pay Act and U.S. Soccer's Arguments
This week, U.S. Soccer outlined its arguments, claiming, in part, that the men and women do not perform the same work. The Equal Pay Act prohibits employers from paying women less than men "for equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions." It also provides four exceptions, where the pay is made pursuant to:
- a seniority system
- a merit system
- a system which measures quantity or quality of production, or
- a differential based on any other factor other than sex.
U.S. Soccer focuses its argument, not on one of these exceptions, but in arguing that the men and women are not performing equal work. U.S. Soccer states in its filing that "[t]he overall soccer-playing ability required to compete at the senior men's national team level is materially influenced by the level of certain physical attributes, such as speed and strength, required for the job." This argument is essentially that because men are stronger and faster, they are not equal to women and may be paid more. In addition, U.S. Soccer argues that the MNT players have more responsibility because they are responsible for competing in more tournaments with bigger prizes and that more people watch men's soccer. They state that "these facts demonstrate that the job of MNT player carries more responsibility within U.S. Soccer than the job of WNT player." Finally, U.S. Soccer argues that the MNT faces more hostility than the WNT.
Essentially, U.S. Soccer is arguing that despite the incredible accomplishments of this team, the women are out of luck because men are stronger and faster, because there are more tournaments for men with better funding, and because the men face more hostility when playing. U.S. Soccer argues that concluding that it paid the women less money "simply because they are women" is "an impossible conclusion."
There is a hearing on March 30, 2020 before Judge R. Gary Klausner in the Central District of California on this issue.