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Women’s Soccer Team Wins Battle for Equal Pay


US Women's Soccer Equal PayIn 2019, the USWNT sued the U.S. Soccer Federation on the grounds of gender discrimination, claiming that they performed the same job as the men’s team, and for the same employer, but received significantly lower compensation. To highlight their hard work, the women’s team stated that they have outperformed their male counterparts by winning a world championship, an achievement the men’s team has failed to reach. There were also many years in which the women’s team played more games during the season. Overall, the women felt that the Federation had no legal grounds for the pay disparity, and the justice system agreed with them.

Terms of Agreement

Within the specific terms of the agreement, a group of former and current players will be back paid from a pool of $24 million to account for the wage disparity in previous years. Any share of broadcast and partnership revenue paid out to the teams will be evenly split, no matter which team contributed more funds. In another settlement from 2020, the USWNT achieved an improvement in working conditions; this new deal will build upon it by continuing to refine benefits like parental leave, child care, and mental health resources.


The landmark deal is the first of its kind, making the U.S. Soccer Federation the first and only soccer federation thus far to implement equalization for World Cup prize funds. Many hope that the deal will prompt other domestic and world organizations to reconsider the way that they approach pay rates for gendered sports. Most professional women’s teams earn a mere fraction of the men’s salaries. According to CBS, the average NBA player makes $5.3 million a year, while the WNBA averages out to $130,000. For the same job, women are making less than 2.5% of the men’s earnings. The detrimental gap often leads to women leaving the country to play in a more competitive market where they will be fairly compensated. With the improvements made on the soccer field, there is reason to believe others could soon follow suit.

Beyond Sports

Unfortunately, the gender pay gap goes far beyond sports. In 2020 in the United States, women earned roughly 73- 83% of what men made–even less for women of color.

Women working full-time, year-round only make 83 cents for every dollar men make. When all workers are considered, including those working part-time, the gap increases to 73 cents on the dollar. The average woman beginning her career today will lose $417,400 over the course of a 40-year career if the current wage gap does not close. Women of color stand to lose far more—approximately $1 million over the course of their careers. A recent study found that 85 percent of the wage gap would be eliminated if women were paid equally within each occupation.

Existing Laws

The federal and California Equal Pay Acts require that men and women in the same workplace be given equal pay for equal work.

Violations of the Equal Pay Act in the workplace can be difficult to spot, but may include the following:

  • Offering women lower base compensation
  • Offering women lower bonuses, stock options, commissions, or other pay
  • Refusing to promote women
  • Promoting less-qualified men instead of more-qualified women
  • Offering women fewer hours or overtime
  • Offering women fewer work opportunities or assignments
  • Punishing women for taking maternity leave
  • Refusing to allow workers to discuss their wages or salary or relying on a worker’s prior salary or wage to determine her pay—both are unlawful in California.

In California, employers cannot pay any of their employees wages or salaries less than they pay employees of the opposite sex, or of another race or ethnicity for substantially similar work. “Substantially similar work” is work that is mostly similar in skill, effort, and responsibility, and is performed under similar working conditions. “Skill” refers to the experience, ability, education, and training needed to perform the job. “Effort” refers to the amount of physical or mental exertion needed to perform the job. “Responsibility” refers to the degree of accountability or duties required in performing the job. “Working conditions” has been interpreted to mean physical surroundings (for example, exposure to temperature, fumes, and ventilation), and hazards.

California law forbids employers from asking a job applicant about salaries they were paid in the past, including compensation and benefits. Employers cannot use a worker’s past salary determine whether to offer employment or in determining that worker’s salary. This is to help eliminate ongoing discrimination in pay from job to job.

Workers in California also have the right to ask their coworkers how much they make, share their own salary, and discuss unequal pay in the workplace. Employers cannot retaliate against employees for doing so. The organization Legal Aid at Work has complied resources for determining whether there is a gender pay gap in a certain workplace here:

Speak Out

If you believe your employer has paid you less than others because of your sex, gender, race, or ethnicity, get in touch with us and we can help you assess your options. Women have always fought for their rights, and will continue to do so until true equality is achieved; Matern Law Group will be by your side through the battle, supporting you each step of the way.

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