The women’s U.S. soccer team has been on a roll in recent seasons leaving the world in shock with their talent on the field. They have raked in world and Olympic championships over the years, completely outranking the men’s U.S. soccer team.
So why exactly are they getting paid less than the men’s team?
The women of the successful team are taking a stand. Recently, five high-profile teammates Carli Lloyd, Hope Solo, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Becky Sauerbrunn officially filed a federal equal-pay complaint.
According to Sauerbrunn, the decision to file this complaint was supported by their entire team wholeheartedly. In the complaint, the five soccer players sourced recent U.S. soccer financial reports as sound evidence that they have become the federation’s primary economic powerhouse but still earn less than the men’s team.
Tom Spiggle, an employment attorney and founder of the Spiggle Law Firm, offers his thoughts about the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charge brought by the members of the U.S. women’s national soccer team.
Despite their greater success over the men’s soccer team, and despite making more than a $20 million profit, the women’s team is being paid a quarter of what the men's team is receiving.
The reason for this? In Spiggle’s opinion, it is purely due to discrimination against the women’s team on the basis of sex. Unequal pay is unlawful according to the Equal Pay Act and the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“Under Title VII, an employee much show that the employer intended to pay the woman (the statue is actually gender neutral, but it’s almost always a woman) less,” said Spiggle. “That can sometimes be difficult to do, though the facts in this case strongly suggest intentional discrimination. Under the Equal Pay Act, there are a number of exceptions that employers can use to wiggle out of pay equity. For instance, a man can be paid more than a woman for the same work if he has more experience in the same field. There is also a catch all that allows an employer to pay a woman less than a man for the same work as long as there is a reason other than sex.”
In this case, however, there doesn’t seem to be a reason other than sex. Unequal pay based on gender discrimination is a real issue at all levels of collegiate and professional sports.
“Indeed Title IX cases are still being brought today because women’s teams are underfunded compared to men’s teams. The difference at the college level, and in some other sports, is women’s teams do generate less revenue than men’s teams. The interesting thing about this story is that the exact opposite is true,” Spiggle said.
Hopefully the women's actions will lead to the shedding of some light on this serious issue and bring attention to the problem of unequal pay, not only in high-profile sports teams, but in the everyday lives of women in the workplace.
Spiggle offered his own opinion on the plan of action the U.S. women’s team are taking. “I think an interesting angle is the strategic play they are making here - filing at the EEOC to make and statement and to up the ante - which appears to be working - without jumping in with both feet in federal court, which is an option available to them under the EPA. It suggests they are using this, for not, as a negotiating tactic. That doesn’t mean they couldn’t ultimately end up in court - they could by going this route - but they didn’t choose that at the outside. Going straight to federal court would have been the more aggressive play."
To learn more about unequal pay in the work force, visit Spiggle’s website here.
Reviewed April 7, 2016
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith
Interview with Tom Spiggle, April 1, 2016.
Top Female Players Accuse U.S. Soccer of Wage Discrimination. NY Times. April 1, 2016.
Women's Soccer Team Members File Federal Equal-Pay Complaint. NPR. April 1, 2016.