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Women’s Soccer Team California Discrimination Lawsuits Trigger Athletics Fair Pay Act

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Democratic Senators introduced legislation requiring equal pay for female Olympic and national team athletes

Santa Clara, CAOn the heels of the U.S. women's soccer team victory and two ongoing California labor law discrimination lawsuits, two Democratic senators have introduced legislation that calls for equal pay for female Olympic and national team athletes.

The two lawsuits filed against U.S. Soccer are both California labor lawsuits for violation of the equal pay act and discrimination against the U.S. Soccer Federation: a federal class action was filed in March 2019 by 28 members of the women’s national team citing gender discrimination

California Discrimination and Fair Pay Lawsuits

Both California labor lawsuits accuse the U.S. Soccer Federation of violating the equal pay act and discrimination, and both were filed in California where the women are employed when they meet for national team camp. Goalie Hope Solo in August 2018 filed a lawsuit claiming that the men's team received $9 million for losing early in their 2014 World Cup bid, but the women's team got only $2 million for winning the 2015 tournament. This amount translates to women getting paid 38 cents for every dollar paid to men. As well, Solo said that in the Olympics, the women's first team is paid on the same level as the men's backup team.

This discrepancy over fair pay has persisted despite plaintiff’s team:

• winning its third World Cup title on July 5, 2015
• post-Cup Victory Tour, which drew tens of thousands of fans to soccer stadiums across the U.S. and made tens of millions of dollars for the Soccer Federation
• snagging four World Cups and four Olympic gold medals
• holding the top spot in world rankings for the sport for 10 of the last 11 years.
• generating $50.8 million in revenue while the men's national team generated $49.9 million from 2016 to 2018

And 23 million viewers made it the most watched soccer game in American TV history.

US Soccer told a California federal court in late June that the women’s national team negotiated and agreed to the pay scheme that is being challenged as discriminatory.

The Athletics Fair Pay Act

Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., introduced The Athletics Fair Pay Act, which would amend the US Code to require equal pay for men's and women's national athletic teams. "Despite the incredible advancements made by women in sports, female athletes in sports like soccer and hockey are paid significantly less than their male counterparts," Feinstein said in a statement and reported by CNN. This bill would update the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act to mandate that national governing bodies in each Olympic sport pay female athletes "fairly and equally," the senators said. The proposed act would also require governing bodies to provide Congress with annual pay reports detailing the compensation of their amateur athletes. The senators also noted that the U.S. women's national ice hockey team in 2017 threatened to boycott before USA Hockey caved and gave them a pay raise.

California Discrimination and Fair Pay Lawsuit

A California federal judge won't let the U.S. Soccer Federation transfer the women's national team lawsuit to the Northern District of California, saying the federation has already argued that district is an improper venue, according to Law360. (The women's national soccer team sued in the Central District of California in March.)

U.S. Soccer argued to move the case to the Northern District per the first-to-file rule, which holds that multiple suits involving the same parties and allegations take place in the district where the first such suit was filed, saying that Solo's suit came first.

U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner told the federation that arguments it made to the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) regarding combining the two lawsuits (Hope Solo and the women's team ) “fatally undermine its bid to move the latter suit to the Northern District, where Solo's lawsuit is ongoing. Judge Klausner wrote that if the two lawsuits are identical, as U.S. Soccer contends in the current motion, that same argument must apply to the team's lawsuit as well, and the first-to-file rule is not an absolute but a factor to be weighed with other considerations.

The women's national soccer team sued in the Central District of California in March. The judge wrote that the Central District has far more connections to the case, as the women's team plays and trains in the district and it's home to key witnesses. As well, he said that Solo's counsel has indicated she would move to transfer her case to the Central District.

The Solo case is Solo v. U.S. Soccer Federation, case number 3:18-cv-05215, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.


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