Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Women Soccer Players Allege Wage Discrimination

Five prominent members of the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team recently filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging that they have been the victims of gender-based pay discrimination. The women soccer players noted that although they have generated similar revenues as the men’s team, they have been paid about four times less than the men, despite the fact that they won the World Cup in 2015. 

The complaint the women filed asks the EEOC to investigate whether the women have been paid less because of their gender. Before an employee can file a suit for discrimination based on gender, race, religion, or any other category protected by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, he or she must first file a complaint with the EEOC. 

In their complaint, the women contend that the U.S. Soccer Federation violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender. In support of these contentions, the women cite statistics showing that they receive less money for achieving the same success as their male counterparts, despite the fact that the women earned almost as much as the men during the previous World Cup. 

The women noted that if a male player qualifies for the U.S. national team, he earns $76,000, while a woman player earns $15,000. If the men’s team qualifies for the World Cup, it receives $2.5 million, while the women receive $345,000. If the men win the World Cup, they receive $9.3 million, while the women receive $1.8 million. 

One thing the women will have to show in order to prove their case is that gender was the factor that caused the difference in pay, and not something else. Many employers are able to defeat wage discrimination claims by showing that pay disparities are the result of other factors like level of education, job performance, and the amount of revenue brought in. 

While the women contend that the U.S. Soccer Federation violated Title VII, it remains to be seen whether they will also bring a claim for violation of the Equal Pay Act of 1963. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 prohibits an employer from paying a female employee less than a male employee when the two employees perform similar work and have similar skills. An employee can bring a lawsuit under both the Equal Pay Act and Title VII for pay discrimination. One advantage to suing under the Equal Pay Act is that it does not require the employee to file a complaint with the EEOC prior to filing a lawsuit for a violation of the Act. 

In order to show that an employer has violated the Equal Pay Act, a female employee must show that she was performing her job adequately and she received less pay than a male counterpart performing a similar job who had a similar level of skill. 

As we have discussed, the EEOC has been aggressively investigating allegations of gender-based pay discrimination, and will likely continue to do so throughout the end of the Obama Administration. Employers need to be careful that they are not or do not appear to be paying female employees less than male employees. Employers should consider consulting an experienced attorney to ensure that they are in compliance with all equal pay laws.