(NEW YORK) — The U.S. women’s soccer team rarely loses on the pitch, and it is not about to settle for what they consider an “L” in the courtroom either.
The reigning World Cup champions walked out of mediation talks being held Wednesday over an equal pay lawsuit filed against the U.S. Soccer Federation earlier this year. The two sides had agreed to go to mediation just before the World Cup kicked off in France in June.
“We entered this week’s mediation with representatives of USSF full of hope,” Molly Levinson, spokesperson for the U.S. women’s national team, said in a statement. “Today we must conclude these meetings sorely disappointed in the Federation’s determination to perpetuate fundamentally discriminatory workplace conditions and behavior. It is clear that USSF, including its Board of Directors and President Carlos Cordeiro, fully intend to continue to compensate women players less than men. They will not succeed. We want all of our fans, sponsors, peers around the world, and women everywhere to know we are undaunted and will eagerly look forward to a jury trial.”
The lawsuit cites the discrimination in pay, but also the denial of “at least equal playing, training, and travel conditions; equal promotion of their games; equal support and development for their games; and other terms and conditions of employment.”
The USSF fired back at the U.S. women, calling their actions “aggressive” and saying they had presented “misleading information” for months.
“We have said numerous times that our goal is to find a resolution, and during mediation we had hoped we would be able to address the issues in a respectful manner and reach an agreement,” the USSF said in a statement. “Unfortunately, instead of allowing mediation to proceed in a considerate manner, plaintiffs’ counsel took an aggressive and ultimately unproductive approach that follows months of presenting misleading information to the public in an effort to perpetuate confusion.”
“We always know there is more we can do,” the statement continued. “We value our players, and have continually shown that, by providing them with compensation and support that exceeds any other women’s team in the world. Despite inflammatory statements from their spokesperson, which are intended to paint our actions inaccurately and unfairly, we are undaunted in our efforts to continue discussions in good faith.”
The U.S. women ran undefeated through the 2019 World Cup in June and July, including a 2-0 win over the Netherlands in the final. It was the second consecutive World Cup victory for the women, who have also won three of the last four Olympic gold medals.
The women have been leaps and bounds better than the U.S. men’s team, which did not qualify for the most-recent World Cup and whose best result, third place, came 89 years ago.
When it comes to the actual legal issues at play, the suit points to two federal laws: the Equal Pay Act, which prohibits paying employees unequally based on sex, and Title VII, which prohibits employers discriminating on the basis of sex.
“The U.S. women’s soccer team does not need to be the best in the world in order to earn equal pay. The point of non-discrimination law is that employees doing similar work should be paid equally,” Suzanne B. Goldberg, director of the Center for Gender & Sexuality Law at the Columbia Law School, told ABC News earlier this year.
In July, a U.S. Soccer spokesperson told ABC News, “The women are paid under a different structure than the men, which they preferred and specifically negotiated for, but that doesn’t mean they are compensated less by U.S. Soccer.”
Women earn guaranteed yearly contracts and benefits, while men are paid for individual match appearances.
Regardless of the trial results, fans spoke out loudly following the World Cup. Attendees in France chanted “Equal pay” after the women won, while similar chants echoed in the Canyon of Heroes days later when the team paraded through lower Manhattan.
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