US women footballers go to court for pay equality

US national football (soccer) team celebrate winning the 2015 World Cup.

United States football (soccer) players filed a federal gender discrimination lawsuit on International Women’s Day on March 8 seeking pay equal to that of their male counterparts.

The action comes just three months before the women’s national team will defend its title at the Women’s World Cup.

The class-action lawsuit was filed today in a Los Angeles federal court under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. It alleges gender-based discrimination by the US Football Federation.

The players allege they have been subject to ongoing “institutionalised gender discrimination”. This includes unequal pay, despite having the same job responsibilities as players on the men’s national team. The 28 members of the current national team player pool joined in the lawsuit.

The US Women’s National Team Players Association was not party to the lawsuit, but in a statement said it “supports the plaintiffs’ goal of eliminating gender-based discrimination by USSF”.

The players are seeking equal pay and treatment, in addition to damages including back pay.

“Each of us is extremely proud to wear the United States jersey, and we also take seriously the responsibility that comes with that,” forward Alex Morgan said. “We believe that fighting for gender equality in sports is a part of that responsibility. As players, we deserved to be paid equally for our work, regardless of our gender.”

This is not the first time the players have sought equitable compensation and conditions.

A group of players filed a complaint in 2016 with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that alleged wage discrimination by the federation. The players maintained that players for the men’s team earned far more than they did, in many cases despite comparable work.

The team took the fight into contract negotiations and struck a collective bargaining agreement in 2017 that runs through 2021.

The players received raises in base pay and bonuses as well as better provisions for travel and accommodation, including increased per diems. It also gave the players some control of certain licensing and marketing rights. Specific details about the deal were not disclosed.

“This lawsuit is an effort by the plaintiffs to address those serious issues through the exercise of their individual rights,” the players’ union said. “For its part, the USWNTPA will continue to seek improvements in pay and working conditions through the labour-management and collective bargaining processes.”

[Slightly abridged from Morning Star Online.]

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