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What can the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team teach us about pay discrimination?

Over the past few months the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team has been in the news for more than its many successes on the field.  In March, five members of the National Team filed a charge of discrimination against the U.S. Soccer Federation with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging pay discrimination.  Specifically, the team members allege that the Federation pays members of the Women’s National Team significantly less than it does the members of the Men’s National Team, even though their jobs are substantially the same.  According to the team members, they are paid between 38 percent and 72 percent less than their male counterparts per game, even though the Women’s National Team was more successful on the field and profitable off the field than the Men’s National Team.

The Women’s National Team’s complaints are consistent with general statistics on gender pay gaps.

SoccerIn January 2009, President Obama signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.  The purpose of the Act, as well as the Equal Pay Act of 1963, was to eliminate unequal pay between men and women.  However, more than seven years later, as shown by the Women’s National Team, women still are not paid equal wages for equal work.  Specifically, according to the National Women’s Law Center (“NWLC”), in 2014 women were paid 79 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts.  The wage gap is present across all professions, and occurs regardless of education level.  In fact, the NWLC found that a woman’s average weekly pay was the same as a man’s in only three occupations out of the 111 studied: computer occupations, wholesale and retail buyers, and bakers.  Moreover, the wage gap was more pronounced for women of color.  Namely, African-American women were only paid 60 cents, and Hispanic women were paid 55 cents, for every dollar paid by their employers to their white male counterparts.

What can you do if you feel you are being paid less than your male counterparts?

The law protects a woman’s right to be paid equal wages for equal work.  If you believe you are being paid less because you are a woman, you should immediately complain to your employer pursuant to its anti-discrimination procedures.  Additionally, if you are comfortable doing so, you may want to discuss your respective pay rates with your male co-workers, as your employer cannot legally prohibit you from discussing with your male co-workers your respective pay rates.  In the end, if your employer remains unwilling to pay you fairly, you may need to pursue your claims through the EEOC (and litigation) – just as the Women’s National Team has had to do.

If you have further questions, or need assistance with issues related to pay discrimination, please contact Siegel & Dolan Ltd. at (312) 878-3210.