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Judge dismisses unequal pay claim by women's soccer players; they request appeal, trial delay

1 year 10 months 3 weeks ago Friday, November 06 2020 Nov 6, 2020 November 06, 2020 12:23 PM November 06, 2020 in News
Source: Associated Press/ABC News

Last week, a Los Angeles appellate court judge dismissed an unequal pay claim made by American women's soccer players but chose to allow their allegations of discriminatory workplace conditions case to move forward, and as of Friday, the women are fighting to see their claim of unequal pay move forward in court.

According to ABC News, the player's attorneys filed a motion Friday, asking U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner in Los Angeles to enter a final judgment on his decision to dismiss their pay claim, which would allow them to appeal their case to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

The women have requested that Klausner 'stay,' or suspend, the trial, which is currently scheduled to begin on June 16.

While the U.S. Soccer Federation has agreed not to oppose the request, it reportedly did not agree with some of the characterizations made by the player's lawyers.

Should Klausner sign the order, a trial probably would be delayed until 2021 at the earliest, which would allow more time for settlement negotiations under new USSF President Cindy Parlow Cone and for talks on a labor deal to replace the collective bargaining agreement that expires on Dec. 31, 2021.

“Equal pay means paying women players the same rate for winning a game as men get paid. The argument that women are paid enough if they make close to the same amount as men while winning more than twice as often is not equal pay," Molly Levinson, spokeswomen for the players, said in a statement.

In March of 2018, the athletes sued under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and requested more than $66 million in damages.

Klauser ruled May 1 they could not prove discrimination over pay and granted in part the USSF's motion for a partial summary judgment.

He based his ruling on the union for the women’s national team decision to reject an offer to be paid under the same pay-to-play structure as the men’s national team’s collective bargaining agreement. Klauser said the union's decision led to the women accepting guaranteed salaries and greater benefits along with a different bonus structure.

He also ruled against the women's allegations that they were discriminated against because they played more games on artificial turf.

But he left intact claims the USSF discriminated in its use of charter aircraft, and in the money it spent on commercial airfare, hotel accommodations, and medical and training support services.

Klausner wrote that the women outearned the men $24.5 million to $18.5 million during the period in dispute, as the women were far more successful with two World Cup titles, while the men failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

The spokeswoman for the soccer athletes addressed this by saying, “The argument that maternity leave is some sort of substitute for paying women players the same rate for winning as men is not valid, nor fair, nor equal." 

“The argument that women gave up a right to equal pay by accepting the best collective bargaining agreement possible in response to the federation’s refusal to put equal pay on the table is not a legitimate reason for continuing to discriminate against them.”

The Associated Press notes that if Klausner enters a final judgment on the thrown-out claims, his ruling would be reviewed by a three-judge panel, which may take about 12-to-20 months from the filing of the notice of appeal until oral argument, and another 3-to-12 months between oral argument and a decision.

“Allowing an appeal to proceed to the 9th Circuit now would conserve resources for both the parties and the court and could accelerate the ultimate resolution of this dispute,” the players' lawyers wrote in their filing. “Allowing an appeal now would also avoid the risk of needing to conduct a second trial involving the same trial participants, in the event that the dismissal is reversed.”

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