Settlement: U.S. women reach agreement with U.S. Soccer on non-compensation claims

U.S. women's national team players have reached an agreement on part of their lawsuit with U.S. Soccer related to non-compensation matters in the current collective bargaining agreement.

On May 1, U.S. District Court Judge R. Gary Klausner granted U.S. Soccer's motion for summary judgment on the women's claim, under the Equal Pay Act, that the women were paid less than men's national team players.

On the women's non-compensation claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the court found for the federation on the issue of games played on artificial turf but allowed claims of disparities in charter flights, hotel accommodations and support services (medical and training support staff) to go to trial, which was delayed until 2021.

On Tuesday, the women filed a motion for preliminary approval of the agreement on those claims that moved forward, setting in motion procedural steps that should end with final approval by the court in the first quarter of 2021.

The tentative agreement covers four areas:

-- Charter flights (equal number over same period);
-- Venues selections (including playing on grass in almost all circumstances);
-- Professional support (18-21 dedicated professional staff for men and women's teams); and
-- Hotel accommodations (comparable budgets for men and women).

They also filed a motion requesting that the court enter final judgment on the equal pay claims. Final judgment is necessary for the women, whose damages they estimated at $66.7 million, to be able to appeal the decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In June, the court ruled that their appeal must wait until after their remaining claims proceed to trial and final judgment is entered.

“I hope that the women and their lawyers see that we are taking a new approach,” said Cindy Parlow Cone, the former women's national team player who became the first woman to head U.S. Soccer when she was elevated to president in March following the resignation of Carlos Cordeiro. “We want the women’s team as well as their lawyers to see that we want to move in a different direction. We want to have a different relationship with them. We want to work together. And I think they’re starting to see that. And we have to continue down this path.”

She said reaching an agreement on the working conditions was the first step.

"The goal for both sides in this," she added, "was to really define a more structured way to provide both teams, the men and the women, with equitable support, also allowing for flexibility at the same time."

The stumbling block in terms of compensation remains World Cup bonuses. FIFA paid $400 million in prize money to the 32 participating men's teams at the 2018 World Cup -- $38 million to champion France -- but just $50 million to the 24 women's teams -- $4 million to USA -- a year later at the World Cup in France.

Federations in Norway, Australia and Brazil have reached new pay deals that provide equal bonuses for everything but the World Cup.

“Our aim is to find the resolution with our women’s national team and we’re committed to doing that," added Parlow Cone. "We’ve reached out to them. We’ve offered them the same contract as the men for all games that are controlled by U.S. Soccer. But unfortunately, the response has been that they didn’t want to negotiate with U.S. Soccer unless U.S. Soccer was willing to make up the FIFA World Cup prize money, which you all know is the vast majority of the $66 million that they are requesting in back pay. And we all know this just isn’t possible from U.S. Soccer’s standpoint to make that up. Even pre-COVID, this would be devastating to our budget and to our programming. But given COVID, not to be overly dramatic, but it would likely bankrupt the federation.”

Here are key parts of the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act:

-- 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.”)

4 comments about "Settlement: U.S. women reach agreement with U.S. Soccer on non-compensation claims".
  1. Wallace Wade, December 2, 2020 at 9:13 a.m.

    If the Federation goes bankrupt, do we get to form a new Federation that actually works on behalf of all soccer players and actual "Community Clubs?" 

  2. Wooden Ships, December 2, 2020 at 9:56 a.m.

    I'm not Bob, so I won't pretend to cypher the  objective (yet interpreted) nature of this or any other case. I do find that the representation for the women, with regard to claiming more than FIFA doles out, is nuts and self serving. Harming our Federation in this instance is out of bounds. 

  3. Bob Ashpole, December 3, 2020 at 4:51 a.m.

    I don't have sympathy for USSF. They were cash flush and intentionally spent down their reserves.

    It is something that I would expect of managers acting in bad faith, i.e., making their corporation appear uncollectable in hopes of settling for less money.

    I was surprised at the judge's decision on the summary judgment motions. Not the result so much as how he got there. I was looking forward to seeing what he did with the rest of the case. Won't get to see it now.

    What is an interesting twist is that the hotel accomodations potentially has a money damage associated with it.

  4. Wooden Ships replied, December 4, 2020 at 9:36 a.m.

    I can agree with damages with regard to underfunding in accommodations, per diem and any other support where there's been a difference between the two genders. 

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