- U.S. Senior Women's National Soccer Team (WNT) players could be due more than $66 million in back pay and damages from the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF), an economist said in court documents filed Feb. 20 in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. The women also asked Judge R. Gary Klauser to grant them summary judgment on their wage discrimination claims, leaving only the question of damages and non-wage discrimination for a jury.
- WNT players sued the federation in March 2019, alleging pay discrimination. Klauser granted the lawsuit class and collective action status under the Equal Pay Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act, respectively (Morgan et al v. U.S. Soccer Federation, Inc., No. 19-cv-01717 (C.D. Calif. Nov. 8, 2019)).
- The USSF also filed a motion Feb. 20 asking the judge to dismiss the case. "Ultimately, plaintiffs want the court to force U.S. Soccer into paying them as though they negotiated a different contract, won competitions they did not play in, defeated opponents they never faced, and generated over $60 million more in FIFA prize money for U.S. Soccer than they actually did," it said. Klauser may decide if the claims will proceed to trial.
Pay equity has been a high-profile topic in recent years, and public outcry has driven many employers to undertake pay audits. "We are in a new age in which there is intense pressure on companies, both internally and externally, to address pay gaps," a speaker told attendees at a 2018 National Employment Law Institute conference.
Still, women in the workforce earn about 80 cents for every dollar men earn, according to the U.S. Census Bureau; even when adjusted for occupation and education, a gap remains. What’s more, the gender pay gap is even wider for women of color.
Companies try but often fail at closing the pay gap, according to a 2019 Harvard Business Review report. Researchers suggested HR practitioners think about the processes that led to the gender pay gap arising: "Are women disadvantaged on intake?" the authors asked. "In ongoing raises? Are there large gender disparities in representation parts of your firm? Are you suffering a high rate of attrition in your female employees?"
Researchers also suggested managers establish a list of defined priorities around closing the gender pay gap. Their suggestions included targeting raises to women whose pay is driving the gap, and taking managerial objectives like fairness and equality into account. "Those raises can close the gap more cost effectively than simply giving across-the-board, equal raises," they said. "This also makes the pay structure more transparent and more equitable."
Some employers, like Citigroup, have said they’re making progress in closing gender pay gaps. The median pay for women at Citi globally is better than 73% of the median for men, up from 71% last year; the median pay for U.S. minorities is 94% of the median for non-minorities, up from 93% last year, the company said in a Jan. 15 statement.
Sara Wechter, head of human resources at Citigroup, said in the statement the company plans to increase representation at the assistant vice president through managing director levels to at least 40% for women globally and 8% for black employees in the U.S. by the end of 2021.
Beyond avoiding discrimination claims, gender equity may be an economic opportunity for employers as it can boost innovation and business performance, research has shown.