Dollar figure placed on U.S. women's gender discrimination lawsuit: $66.7 million in damages estimated

The gender discrimination lawsuit U.S. women's national team players filed against U.S. Soccer in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles took a new turn on Thursday night when both parties filed motions for summary judgement.

They were accompanied by the filing to hundreds of pages of documents, including the collective bargaining agreements reached between U.S. Soccer and the men's and women's players associations, which had not previously been made public. Other documents include depositions, emails and notes from meetings by parties on both sides, presenting a detailed look under the hood of labor relations between the federation and its players going back years.

For the first time, the players included an amount they estimate as compensation: back pay of $66.7 million plus punitive damages.

The law:


The players suing Equal Pay Act and Title VII:

-- The Equal Pay Act provides that an employer cannot discriminate between employees on the basis of sex by "paying wages to employees in such establishment at a rate less than the rate at which he pays wages to employees of the opposite sex ... for equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions.”

-- Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating against any employee with respect to her “compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” (Unlike under the Equal Pay Act, plaintiffs alleging sex-based compensation discrimination under Title VII need not establish that they are performing equal work for unequal pay. They need only show that sex “was a motivating factor for any employment practice, even though other factors also motivated the practice.”)

The legal positions:

The players are asking for partial summary, arguing that there is no genuine issue of material fact related to what they need to prove their case under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII.

U.S. Soccer is seeking summary judgement, asking that the case be thrown out on the grounds that the players don't satisfy key elements of the anti-discrimination laws related to "work rate," "establishment" and "equal work."

The maneuvering:

The case will be decided around complicated legal issues related to equal pay, but both sides are seeking to use the words of the other party against them.

The players' lead attorney, Jeffrey Kessler, grilled current U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro in his Jan. 29 deposition about a statement he made when he was running for president in 2017: "Our female players have not been treated equally."

In a Jan. 16 deposition, Megan Rapinoe was asked by U.S. Soccer attorney Brian Stolzenbach about comments she made on a Pod Save America interview: "It's a complex argument. Our pay structure is different. We play different games. We're different rankings in the world, like it's just apples to oranges."

The statements:

U.S. Soccer:

“Women’s national team players are paid differently because they specifically asked for and negotiated a completely different contract than the men’s national team, despite being offered, and rejecting, a similar pay-to-play agreement during the past negotiations. Their preference was a contract that provides significant additional benefits that the men’s national team does not have, including guaranteed annual salaries, medical and dental insurance, paid child-care assistance, paid pregnancy and parental leave, severance benefits, salary continuation during periods of injury, access to a retirement plan, multiple bonuses and more.”

U.S. women's national team players' spokesperson Molly Levinson:

“In the most recent CBA negotiation, USSF repeatedly said that equal pay was not an option regardless of pay structure. USSF proposed a 'pay to play structure' with less pay across the board. In every instance for a friendly or competitive match, the women players were offered less pay that their male counterparts. This is the very definition of gender discrimination, and of course the players rejected it.”
7 comments about "Dollar figure placed on U.S. women's gender discrimination lawsuit: $66.7 million in damages estimated".
  1. Santiago 1314, February 21, 2020 at 9:28 a.m.

    I'd like to get out "The Popcorn" and watch the Sparks Fly, but it will probably be more like Watching Paint Dry.!!!... You go Girls.!!!.. Hope you get what you Want.. You Deserve It.!!!... World Cup and Olympic Champions.... 66 million is NADA for what you Did.!!!!... Having said that; I'm not Sure you're Case is Very Strong,  when you sign a Separate CBA...  It is Comparing Apples to Oranges.

  2. David Ruder replied, February 21, 2020 at 10:57 a.m.

    There is going to be no end to these lawsuits as long as Womans soccer is part of the traditional US Soccer organization. Woman Soccer should be on its own management and P&L statement and everybody will be better off.

  3. Bob Ashpole replied, February 21, 2020 at 2:07 p.m.

    If USSF didn't discriminate, it wouldn't be sued.

    While this may sound presumptious on my part, Carlos Cordeiro, while VP of USSF, publicly admitted that USSF discriminated against women and called for its immediate end. That is the kind of statement that is almost impossible to walk back, considering he had been a USSF manager and board member for 10 years.

    We will have to see how the judge handles it. Credibility is not decided in summary judgment proceedings. So USSF is stuck with his statement for now.

  4. Bob Ashpole replied, February 21, 2020 at 2:09 p.m.

    Santiago, Equal Pay Act plaintiffs always have an employement contract of some kind. Consent is not a defense to the claim. 

  5. Ric Fonseca replied, February 21, 2020 at 6:03 p.m.

    David Ruder:  I do believe that your inability to differentiate between the singular and plural spellings is more troublesome.  "Woman" singular, refers to one; whereas "Women"  plural, refers to more than one, hence the US Women's National Team.... 

  6. Bob Ashpole, February 21, 2020 at 2 p.m.

    Paul, that is about the best article I have ever seen on a legal topic. Well done.

    This is a complex case involving issues unique to professional sports. I look forward to reading the judge's decision. The "establishment" issue on the Equal Pay Act claim is particularly interesting. As indicated in the article, the issue is not a requirement for the Title VII claim.

    For all of us, the Equal Pay Act claim only pertains to the class members, but the Title VII claim could impact all of amatuer soccer. That is millions of us. 

  7. Bob Ashpole, February 24, 2020 at 9:31 p.m.

    I just read elsewhere that the USSF filed a motion to dismiss on the basis that male soccer players perform different jobs than female soccer players because the men are bigger and stronger than women. 

    Procedurally, this is not really a significant distinction. The motion to dismiss would be converted to a motion for summary if the plaintiffs create a factual dispute over the USSF's allegation.

    What is significant is that this argument is legally bankrupt. The failure to come up with a better defense is telling. This is not the defense I anticipated. There is litigative risk associated with presenting a judge with a trivial motion to decide before trial. That doesn't mean that the trial judge can't grant USSF's motion. A trial judge can pretty much do anything they want, subject to appellate review after the fact. 

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