US women’s soccer settles $24M equal pay lawsuit

A six-year legal battle is over. U.S. women’s soccer players had sued to get the same pay as their male counterparts.

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The U.S. Soccer Federation announced that the players will split $22 million among 61 women, The Wall Street Journal reported. The USSF will also start a $2 million fund to help players once their careers are over. Some of the money will go to charities that will help grow women’s soccer programs, The Associated Press reported.

Each player will be able to apply for up to $50,000 from the fund, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The USSF also pledged to pay men and women the same subject to the collective bargaining agreements with the unions that represent male and female teams. The equal pay will also include bonuses for the World Cup.

“This is just one step towards rebuilding the relationship with the women’s team. I think this is a great accomplishment and I’m excited about the future and working together with them,” USSF President Cindy Parlow Cone said after the decision, the AP reported. “Now we can shift the focus to other things, most importantly, growing the game at all levels and increasing opportunities for girls and women.”

Cone took over as the federation president in March 2020 after the group’s former president, Carlos Cordeiro, quit after the USSF filed legal paperwork that said that women had less physical ability and responsibility than male players, the AP reported.

The U.S. women’s soccer team has won four World Cups since the league was formed in 1985. The men’s team has not reached a semifinal since 1930, the AP reported.

Five players including Megan Rapinoe had filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in April 2016. They then sued three years later under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the AP reported.

Both sides had settled part of the suit in December 2020 that hammered out working conditions like flights, accommodations and playing surfaces. But the equal pay portion had been thrown out by a U.S. District Court in 2020, claiming that the women had insufficient evidence to prove that they were paid less than male players, The Wall Street Journal reported. They were set to argue that portion of the suit next month.

A labor contract is still to be hammered out. The current one expires on March 31, the AP reported.

The settlement hinges on the new collective bargaining agreement, The Wall Street Journal reported.