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Wage Discrimination in U.S. Olympic Soccer

Posted by Athena M. Herman | Apr 08, 2016 | 0 Comments

In the final game of the 2015 Women's World Cup, the U.S. team beat Japan, 5 goals to 2. The U.S. Women's team has also won gold in the past three Olympic games, dominating the sport in worldwide competition. Despite their success and recognition, the female soccer players are paid less than their male counterparts, who have never won a World Cup, or received an Olympic medal of any kind. Now the wage disparity is the subject of a federal complaint.

The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio are only a few months away. In addition to worries about the Zika virus and water pollution, Olympic athletes are expressing their discontent about the wage discrimination between the male and female teams. According to a report last year, the National Women's Soccer League salaries range from $6,000 to $30,000, with a team-wide cap of $200,000. However, their male counterparts have a league salary cap of over $3 million.

Five of the top players on the U.S. team are named in the complaint, including Carli Lloyd, Becky Sauerbrunn, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, and Hope Solo. According to ESPN, citing figures from 2015, “despite the women's team generating nearly $20 million more revenue last year than the U.S. men's team, the women are paid almost four times less.”

The men's and women's team have the same number of friendly matches, and the same requirements to participate and gain a spot on the World Cup teams. However, according to midfielder Megan Rapinoe, “it has become clear that the [U.S. Soccer] Federation has no intention of providing us equal pay for equal work.”

The female players not only receive reduced salaries, they also get less income under the bonus structure. Male players are paid $5,000 for a loss in a friendly match, and as much as $17,625 for a win. However, female players receive no bonus pay for a loss or time, and only $1,350 for a win. “The USMNT get paid more to just show up than we get paid to win major championships,” said goalkeeper Hope Solo, “The numbers speak for themselves.”

The U.S. Women's Team is not only more successful in international competition, they also have higher ratings for televised matches. The final game of their most recent World Cup win was watched by more than 25 million people in the U.S. Additionally, the women's team generated almost $20 million in revenue for the Illinois-based U.S. Soccer Federation, significantly higher than the revenue generated by the men's team.

The complaint was filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Under federal law, employers are prohibited from paying men and women unequal wages for doing the same or substantially similar work. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 provides for penalties for any employer who violates provisions of the act. The EEOC will now investigate the claims to determine whether the Federation is in violation of federal law.

If you suspect that you are being paid less than a male employee for doing the same or substantially similar work, your employer may be violating federal and state equal pay laws. If you are a victim of wage discrimination, you should speak with an experienced attorney who understands Illinois wage discrimination law. At Benassi & Benassi, we are committed to getting our clients and their families the justice they deserve.

About the Author

Athena M. Herman

Athena M. Herman practices in the areas of employment discrimination law, general employment law, and civil rights law...


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