Judge Approves US Women’s Soccer Settlement on Working Conditions

The ruling clears the way for the Women’s World Cup holders to appeal a judge’s dismissal last year of their claims that they’re unfairly paid less than men’s national team players.

United States players celebrate with Kristie Mewis, number 22, who scored her side’s second goal during the international friendly women’s soccer match between The Netherlands and the US at the Rat Verlegh stadium in Breda, southern Netherlands, Nov. 27, 2020. (Piroschka van de Wouw/Pool via AP)

LOS ANGELES (CN) — A California federal judge Monday granted final approval of a settlement between U.S. Women’s National Team soccer players and the sport’s national governing body over claims that working conditions were not equal to those of the Men’s National Team. 

The U.S women’s national team players — holders of the Women’s World Cup trophy — filed a gender discrimination lawsuit in March 2019 against U.S. Soccer Federation claiming women would have earned more compensation under the men’s national team’s pay structure.

Women also say in their lawsuit the federation deprives them of the expensive charter flights and hotel rooms and superior medical and training staff provided to the men’s team.

The federation has argued in court papers both national teams operate under separate labor agreements they each collectively bargained for. 

On Dec. 1, the parties settled players’ inequitable working conditions claims, with the U.S. governing body agreeing to provide hotel accommodations, charter flights and professional training and support staff that is on par with what the men’s national team is provided.

U.S. Soccer would also select match venues that have natural turf, not the artificial surfaces that women have said for years are the cause of injuries and represent a step down from professional level fields men play on.

The agreement, which was preliminarily approved by U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner this past January, means the claims won’t go to trial, which had been scheduled for early this year.

In a Monday hearing in the Central District of California, Klausner granted final approval of the settlement.

The equal pay claims remain unresolved, having not been covered in the settlement. Klausner struck a blow to those claims last May when he granted U.S. Soccer summary judgment, finding women earned more in cumulative pay and rejecting claims women would have earned more under the men’s team’s pay structure.

The players’ spokesperson Molly Levinson said in a statement they were pleased with the approval of the settlement and will move swiftly on their appeal of dismissed equal pay claims.

“Finally, giving these athletes access to facilities, training, care, and professional support is the next step needed in the long and hard work to grow the game of women’s football,” Levinson said. “Now that this is behind us, we intend to appeal the Court’s equal pay decision, which does not account for the fact that women players have been paid at lesser rates than men who do the same job. We are committed as ever to our work to achieve the equal pay that we legally deserve and our focus is on the future and ensuring we leave the game a better place for the next generation of women who will play for this team and our country.”

A U.S. Soccer spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the ruling.

The federation has said the players’ request for $67 million in back pay would likely bankrupt the organization and that many women’s national team players’ contracts are supplemented by their salaries in professional leagues.

The women’s national team has won three World Cup tournaments, four Olympic gold medals and is currently ranked number 1 in the world by soccer’s international governing body.

Meanwhile, the men’s national team has never won the international competition and failed to even qualify for the 2018 World Cup tournament in Russia. The men’s team also fell short of qualifying for the upcoming Olympic games in Tokyo, Japan.

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