Will the U.S. women’s soccer team win EEOC claims regarding pay discrepancies?

The United States Women’s National Soccer team filed an EEOC claim for receiving unequal pay for their incredible performances when compared to pay received by the Men’s National Soccer team.

Photo by ABC News.

Members of the United States Women’s National Soccer team (U.S. Women’s Team) are speaking up about issues concerning wage-discrimination.  Despite their incredible success in the previous years, they are being paid a significantly lesser amount than the United States Men’s National Soccer team.

In 2015, the U.S. Women’s Team claims they generated nearly $20 million more in revenue than the U.S. Men’s Team and yet they were paid less. 

In 2015, the U.S. Women’s Team claims they generated nearly $20 million more in revenue than the U.S. Men’s Team and yet they were paid less.  They won the 2015 FIFA World Cup and were paid $2 million dollars for their victory.  But when compared to the victories of the U.S. Men’s Team, the numbers are very far from being equal.

In 2014, the U.S. Men’s Team finished in 11th place in the World Cup and was paid $9 million.  Due to such pay discrepancies between what is paid to the women’s team versus men’s teams, on Wednesday, March 31, 2016, five soccer players on the U.S. Women’s National Team filed a wage bias complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The EEOC is the agency responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against someone in employment based on their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability or genetic information.  Once charges or complaints have been filed with the EEOC, they will investigate the charges of the alleged discrimination and then make a finding.  The EEOC will give a “right to sue letter” to the complaining party, at which time, the party may pursue further action.

[The five soccer players named in the complaint] claim to represent the entire U.S. Women’s Team in speaking up for their rights and the pay they feel that they deserve.

The five soccer players – Alex Morgan, Carli Llyod, Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe, and Becky Sauerbrunn – are the names that appear on the complaint.  They claim to represent the entire U.S. Women’s Team in speaking up for their rights and the pay they feel that they deserve.

“The numbers speak for themselves. We are the best in the world, have three World Cup championships, four Olympic championships.”  Hope Solo, who is the U.S. Women’s Team goalkeeper.  Solo also stated that the men on the U.S. team “get paid more to just show up than we get paid to win major championships.”

The U.S. Soccer Federation sets up collective bargaining agreements with both the women and men’s teams, but within those agreements the financial terms differ widely.  For example, when a male player loses in a match, they are paid $5,000 and when they win against a top opponent they can receive as much as $17,625.  When comparing a female player, if they win in a similar match they only receive $1,350, yet the women receive no pay if they loose.  The women on the soccer team believe that it is now their time to speak up on something that has been an ongoing issue.

The U.S. Soccer Federation claims that some of the figure discrepancies which surround the EEOC complaint are “inaccurate, misleading or both.”  Arguments against the pay discrepancies between the U.S. Women’s and U.S. Men’s soccer teams include that many different factors that go into play when comparing the compensation of players, such as the revenue each team generates.  It is also argued that the reason why men’s sports and players deserve higher pay is because they “draw bigger crowds and generate far more money in ticket sales and corporate sponsorships.”

The U.S. Women’s team rebuts this argument by claiming that they generated almost $20 million more in revenue in 2015 than the U.S. men’s teams.  Also, in 2015, 25.4 million people tuned in to watch the 2015 FIFA World Cup final game, which made it the most watched soccer match in the history of this country.

Title IX protects individuals from discrimination based on sex in educational programs and activities that receive Federal financial assistance. 

There have been more opportunities for women to participate in sports due to the gender-equity legislation, Title IX, which was passed in 1972.  Title IX protects individuals from discrimination based on sex in educational programs and activities that receive Federal financial assistance.  Under the law, athletic programs are considered in the definition of educational programs and activities.

Even though it has been over forty years since the law has been passed, sports participants are still struggling with matters concerning compensation.  In 2014, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research showed a 21 percent wage gap when full-time female workers were compared to male full-time workers.  Heidi Hartmann, the president of the Women’s Policy Research, is very hopeful that the type of attention that has been brought on the issue of pay discrimination will help bring awareness to a very important issue.

“I think we’ve proven our worth over the years. Just coming off a World Cup win, the pay disparity between the men and women is just too large. . .”

The U.S. Women’s team is being represented by well know sports attorney, Jeffrey Kessler, of Winston and Strawn.  Kessler told NPR that he believes the U.S. Women’s Team has a strong gender discrimination case and that the EEOC would also agree on that basis.

What does the U.S. Women’s team have to prove to be successful in the E.E.O.C. claim against the U.S. Soccer Federation?  Since this is a case concerning equal pay, the U.S. Women’s Team needs to prove that when compared to the U.S. Men’s Team, they are working “in substantially equal jobs with the same employer yet they are receiving different compensation.”

Former EEOC Chief, Ida Castro, told USA Today, that, “from what has been reported, it seems like they reached that prima facie threshold” and that there is enough information to “trigger an investigation.”

If the EEOC finds that the U.S. Soccer Federation violated federal law by participating in pay discrimination based on gender, they will try to reach a voluntary settlement.  If such a settlement cannot be reached, the EEOC will take it a step further and determine whether to file a lawsuit.  This investigation could take up to ten months.  Another option for the team if the EEOC does not find that U.S. Soccer Federation broke any laws is to pursue a civil suit.

Carli Llyod, one of the five players on the complaint told NBC’s Today, “I think we’ve proven our worth over the years. Just coming off a World Cup win, the pay disparity between the men and women is just too large. We want to continue to fight. The generation of players before us fought. And now it’s our job to keep on fighting.”

It’s seems as though the U.S. Women’s Team has a very strong case that weighs in their favor.  It is very clear that the female soccer players earn a “fraction of what males players make” and the women are more successful of the field than their male counterparts.

This is not the first time there have been issues regarding gender in professional sports.  

The U.S. Soccer Federation released a statement saying that they are open and committed to negotiating new agreements that directly address the compensation that the women players are getting paid.  But their statement does not directly address pay discrepancy.  Hopefully, the action taken by the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team will help with raising the awareness about pay discrimination and making sure that justice is given.

This is not the first time there have been issues regarding gender in professional sports.  Last month, Raymond Moore, CEO and tournament director of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, California, resigned after he made distasteful remarks concerning female tennis players. Furthermore, wage discrepancies between males and females in the work environment for essentially the same jobs and same requirements are unfortunately very common in the United States.  In January of this year, President Barack Obama even proposed a new bill, which attempted to minimize the pay wage gap.

Equal Pay is a right, and something that should be practiced across the board.  “It’s about time we look at women in sports and we begin to treat them with the same value and equity that they merit.” – Ida Castro

Amaka Madu, Senior Staff Writer Emeritus
About Amaka Madu, Senior Staff Writer Emeritus (18 Articles)
Amaka Madu is a 2017 graduate of Campbell Law School and served as a Senior Staff Writer for the Campbell Law Observer. She is originally from Raleigh, North Carolina and graduated from The University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 2013 with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Political Science. Following her first year of law school, Amaka interned at the North Carolina Court of Appeals with Honorable Judge Tyson and during the second half of her summer, she participated in the Baylor Academy of the Advocate study abroad program in St. Andrews, Scotland. Amaka also currently serves as Secretary for Campbell University’s Black Law Student Association.
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