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USWNT file equal pay appeal, seek trial delay

Megan Rapinoe (Credit: Getty Images)

Members of the United States women’s national team are continuing their equal pay battle with the United States Soccer Federation by appealing a recent district court decision that dismissed their wage discrimination claims.

Molly Levinson, a spokesperson for the players, said in a statement: “Equal pay means paying women players the same rate for winning a game as men get paid. The argument that women are paid enough if they make close to the same amount as men while winning more than twice as often is not equal pay. The argument that maternity leave is some sort of substitute for paying women players the same rate for winning as men is not valid, nor fair, nor equal.

“The argument that women gave up a right to equal pay by accepting the best collective bargaining agreement possible…in response to the Federation’s refusal to put equal pay on the table is not a legitimate reason for continuing to discriminate against them. Today, we are filing a motion to allow us to appeal immediately the district court’s decision so that the Ninth Circuit will be able to review these claims,” Levinson said.

In March 2019, 28 members of the USWNT squad – including star players Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, and Alex Morgan – filed a lawsuit against US Soccer seeking equal pay and working conditions with their male counterparts, citing “institutionalized gender discrimination.” The players sought more than $66m in damages and back pay under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Attempts at mediation failed and the issue cast a shadow over USWNT’s victory in the Women’s World Cup in France last summer and cost former US Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro his job as the federation’s handling of the situation became a year-long public relations disaster.

Yet while the USWNT won in the court of public opinion, in turn gaining significant global support in their fight for women’s rights in the workplace, they lost in the court of law.

At the US District Court for the Central District of California earlier this month, Judge Gary Klausner threw out the USWNT’s equal pay claim, citing the fact that they agreed to a collective bargaining agreement which has different terms and bonus structures compared to the men’s.

“The history of negotiations between the parties demonstrates that the WNT rejected an offer to be paid under the same pay-to-play structure as the MNT, and the WNT was willing to forgo higher bonuses for benefits, such as greater base compensation and the guarantee of a higher number of contracted players,” Klausner wrote.

“Accordingly, plaintiffs cannot now retroactively deem their [collective bargaining agreement] worse than the MNT CBA by reference to what they would have made had they been paid under the MNT’s pay-to-play terms structure when they themselves rejected such a structure,” he said.

The USWNT are looking to appeal this ruling now, indicating that the prospect of a settlement is not on the agenda. According to ESPN, US Soccer is looking to restart settlement talks but the players have yet to agree to resume negotiations.

Klausner also allowed the players’ case for unfair treatment in travel, specifically the use of charter flights, as well as in accommodation and medical treatment compared to the men to go to trial, which was tentatively set for June 16 in Los Angeles.

The players, though, are seeking to delay this trial, and stage it “at a time that is practicable in light of Covid-19 restrictions.” This could mean a delay until 2021.

The Associated Press reports that US Soccer has agreed not to oppose USWNT’s requests but did not agree with some of the characterizations made by the players’ lawyers.