Although the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team’s pay discrimination settlement this week was notable for its $24 million price tag, it is also notable because it highlights the very real risk that employers face over unequal pay practices.
Members of the USWNT originally filed the case in 2019 accusing U.S. Soccer (the sport’s governing body) of gender discrimination under the federal Equal Pay Act. The core allegation in the case was that members of the women’s national team were improperly paid less than members of the men’s team. The players supported their allegation in part by noting that they were much more successful than the higher paid members of the men’s team and they essentially performed the same job duties. The resulting litigation was as controversial as it was contentious.
As many employers have learned the hard way, federal and state employment laws prohibit employers from maintaining pay practices that discriminate on the basis of sex. These laws can be complicated, and even companies with well-staffed HR and compliance departments can find themselves targeted with claims. Recent settlements by KPMG ($10 million) and Google ($2.6 million) are clear examples of this.
Many legal commentators have suggested in the wake of the USWNT settlement that employers use this as a launching pad for an evaluation of their own pay practices, a measure which appears wise given the potential exposure.
If you have questions about this or other Labor and Employment issues, contact Brian Kelly or another member of the Frantz Ward Labor and Employment Practice Group.