Team USA celebrates a victory in the bronze medal match during the
2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, on August 5, 2021. Photo courtesy USWNT/Twitter
Aug. 12 (UPI) -- A federal judge in California has granted preliminary approval to a $24 million settlement between the U.S. Soccer Federation and the U.S. Women's National Team over a lawsuit seeking equal pay for the men's and women's teams.
A $22 million settlement was negotiated earlier this year and the federation added $2 million to the deal. As part of the settlement, each of the 28 women's team players can apply to receive $50,000 to fund charities and make life plans beyond their soccer careers.
The case is being deposed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, where Judge R. Gary Klausner issued a memo this week describing the agreement between the parties as "fair, adequate and reasonable for the purposes of preliminary approval."
Klausner gave preliminary approval on Thursday and set a hearing to finalize the deal on Dec. 5.
"We are pleased that the Court granted preliminary approval for the Historic Equal Pay Resolution today," Molly Levinson, spokeswoman for the USWNT said in a tweet. "We look forward to celebrating this hard fought victory for women and girls at the final hearing in December."
Megan Rapinoe of the U.S. Soccer Women's National Team speaks during an event to mark Equal Pay Day in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington on March 24, 2021. File Photo by Shawn Thew/UPI/Pool
The players initially asked for $66.7 million in back pay.
The agreement calls for the U.S. Soccer Federation to make a one-time payment of $22 million. The women's national team has authority to decide how they will collect the money.
The door to the pending settlement opened in May after a new collective bargaining agreement between the unions of the men's and women's national teams was approved. In those talks, both sides agreed to equal pay during national team matches and an equal split of bonus money from World Cup tournaments.
The women's players first sued in 2019 under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, alleging "institutionalized gender discrimination" by the soccer federation. The players also complained of poor working conditions.
The federation was scathingly dismissive of the suit in a 2020 filing, which scoffed that female players "do not perform equal work requiring equal skill [and] effort" because the "overall soccer-playing ability required to compete at the senior men's national team level materially influenced by the level of certain physical attributes such as speed and strength," ESPN noted.
The resulting uproar forced out then-USSF President Carlos Cordeiro. He was replaced by Cindy Parlow Cone, who's now in her second term after a failed comeback attempt by Cordeiro.
The USWNT suffered a major setback in mid-2020 after Klausner dismissed the suit's claims over equal pay by granting a summary judgment that favored the USSF. The USWNT players later appealed the decision, saying that Klausner had erred in his reasoning to dismiss the part of the suit concerning unequal pay.
The part of the suit over poor working conditions were also allowed to move forward and were ultimately settled in late 2020. The negotiations continued for months with Cone at the helm until a settlement was finally reached in February.