Soccer fans in Texas and around the country may have cheered in July when the United States national women’s team won their fourth FIFA World Cup, but they may not be aware that the historic match kicked off just a few months after the team filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation. In the lawsuit, the women’s team alleges that the USSF violated the Equal Pay Act by paying them less than the men’s team for performing the same work.
Plaintiffs who file lawsuits for violations of the EPA must establish that they were paid less than a worker of the opposite sex for performing work that required the same skills under similar working conditions. Once this has been accomplished, the defendant may raise one of four affirmative defenses. They could claim that the difference in pay was the result of seniority, merit, differences in production or work quality, or any other reason not related to gender. However, plaintiffs may still prevail in equal pay cases if these reasons are shown to be pretexts.
The U.S. women’s soccer team also clams in their lawsuit that the USSF violated Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act by providing them far more austere training facilities and accommodations than the men’s team. The litigation also points out that the women’s team has been far more successful on the field.
Attorneys with experience in workplace discrimination and harassment claims could help workers who feel that they have been treated unfairly to prepare their claims by explaining how a prima facie case is established and the kind of defenses their employers are likely to mount. Attorneys could also point out to employers how settling these claims discretely behind closed doors could protect their reputations and avoid a public backlash.