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U.S. women's soccer team, federation agree to partial settlement in equality suit

The United States Soccer Federation pledges to implement policies related to hotel accommodations, staffing, venues and travel as part of a settlement agreement in the lawsuit filed by women's team players. File Photo by David Silpa/UPI
1 of 3 | The United States Soccer Federation pledges to implement policies related to hotel accommodations, staffing, venues and travel as part of a settlement agreement in the lawsuit filed by women's team players. File Photo by David Silpa/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 2 (UPI) -- The United States Soccer Federation and United States Women's National Team players have agreed to a partial settlement in the players' lawsuit claiming unequal work conditions compared to the men's team.

The two sides reached an agreement Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner still must issue a final approval of the proposed settlement.

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Klausner previously dismissed the players' allegations of gender discrimination for earnings compared to the men's team. He said in the May ruling that the players did not demonstrate "a triable issue that [women's] players are paid less than [men's] players."

The players still plan to appeal the wage discrimination decision under the Equal Pay Act. Tuesday's agreement averts a trial on the working condition claims, but does not end the lawsuit due to the pending appeal.

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The federation has not admitted to wrongdoing or discrimination.

"We are pleased that the [U.S. women's team] players have fought for -- and achieved -- long overdue equal working conditions," said Molly Levinson, the players' spokeswoman. "We now intend to file our appeal to the court's decision, which does not account for the central fact in this case that women players have been paid at lesser rates than men who do the same job.

"We remain as committed as ever to our work to achieve the equal pay that we legally deserve. Our focus is on the future and ensuring we leave the game a better place for the next generation of women who will play for this team and this country."

As part of Tuesday's agreement, the federation pledges to implement policies related to hotel accommodations, staffing, venues and travel for the women's team.

The federation also will implement a senior national team professional support policy, put in place to ensure equality of staffing for the men's and women's teams. The policy also allows flexibility based on each team's needs. Each team will be provided "equally acceptable venues and field playing surfaces."

"[The federation] denies that it did anything wrong and maintains that it has not discriminated against plaintiffs on the basis of sex in pay or working conditions," the settlement documents state.

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The lawsuit, filed in March, initially included 28 players who alleged that the federation used "institutionalized gender discrimination" toward the women's team. It was filed under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The plaintiffs were granted class status in November, meaning players from 2015 to the present day could be represented. In total, 72 women have opted into the class. The players had asked for more than $66 million in back pay and compensation.

"We hope today's positive step forward will result in the [players] accepting our standing offer to discuss contract options," said Cindy Parlow Cone, president of the federation. "As a former [U.S.] player, I can promise you that I am committed to equality between the [women's team] and [men's team].

"My goal is, and has always been, to come to a resolution on all equal pay matters and inspire a new era of collaboration, partnership and trust between the [women's team] and the federation.

"Just as important, we want to work with the [women's team] on growing women's soccer here in the U.S. and across the globe. Part of this is encouraging FIFA to invest equally in the men's and women's game, including increasing the World Cup prize money. I will lend my voice and efforts to making this happen not only for the U.S., but for all women's national team players and everyone who believes in the women's game throughout the world."

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Klausner is expected to rule on final approval of the settlement agreement in early 2021.

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