- A federal district court dismissed the equal pay claims of members of the U.S. Senior Women's National Soccer Team May 1, but it allowed the players' discriminatory working conditions claim to continue (Morgan et al v. U. S. Soccer Federation, Inc., No. 19-cv-01717 (C.D. Cali. May 1, 2020)).
- The players alleged they were paid less than members of the men's team, despite performing better. They also alleged they were subject to inferior employment terms and conditions, including being booked on less-desirable flights than the men's team. The court granted the women class status in late 2019 and an economist predicted that if they were successful at the summary judgment stage, they could have been due $66 million.
- In dismissing the equal pay claim, the court said the employer provided evidence that the women were paid more than the men in both cumulative pay and per-game pay. The women had argued that the men were still paid under more favorable terms — that they would have received more if they had the same pay structure — but the court said they failed to create an issue for trial. The plaintiffs said they intend to appeal the court's ruling.
The soccer team's lawsuit brought equal pay issues into the spotlight and advanced a public conversation about equity at work.
As many workers were emboldened to speak up about harassment by the #MeToo movement, parallel groundswells bolstered workers' voices on a number of issues, including pay equity. Shareholders and customers pushed for compensation transparency, and some high-profile employers answered that call, releasing gender pay gap data and promising to do better.
But experts have said the Morgan judgment could strike a blow to that movement and comes during pandemic-driven judicial delays. It similarly remains to be seen whether employee pressure will continue with respect to equal pay. With nation-wide closures driving record-high unemployment, workers' leverage appears to be directed at other issues, at least for the time being. Specifically, employers are facing pressure to ensure the safety of essential workers and provide time off for those with new or expanded caregiving responsibilities.
Still, employers should note that federal law prohibits discrimination in pay on the basis of sex. And even if employee demands are focused elsewhere, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has said that the nation's nondiscrimination laws are unaffected by the crisis and that the agency remains committed to its enforcement priorities.