Do American women receive equal pay for equal work?

The Equal Pay Act, signed into law in 1963, was designed to level the playing field for men and women by prohibiting gender-based discrimination with respect to the payment of wages. In other words, men and women in the same workplace are required to be given equal pay for equal work. Now, more than 50 years later, a wage gap remains between the sexes.

President Barack Obama tried to move the ball down the field when he signed his first major legislation in January 2009, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. In short, the law extended the time period for claimants to bring pay discrimination claims. Despite the intentions of the Equal Pay Act and Obama’s initiative, some observers argue that women are still paid about 79 cents for every dollar paid to men.

Now, five players on the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team have brought renewed attention to the equal pay debate after they filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accusing U.S. Soccer Federation of wage discrimination.

U.S. Women’s Soccer Team EEOC Complaint

According to the New York Times, the women bringing the claim contend that they earned 40 percent of what the men’s national team earned last year, even though the women’s team won its third World Cup.

In response, U.S. Soccer argued that the men’s national team produced twice as much revenue and attendance than the women’s team. The soccer governing body also contends that pay for the women’s team was negotiated through collective bargaining and the players insisted on economic security via a salary-based system. The agreement also included severance and injury pay, health benefits and maternity leave. The men’s team, says U.S. Soccer, is paid under what it called a “bonus-centric plan” without the benefits women receive.

Nonetheless, U.S Soccer’s financial reports show that the women’s team is driving revenue – which exceeded 2015 predictions by about $16 million.

“The numbers speak for themselves,” said goalkeeper Hope Solo, one of complainants. “We are the best in the world, have three World Cup championships, four Olympic championships.”

Meanwhile, the men’s team performance has been called mediocre. The complaint also alleges that the women are being shortchanged on bonuses, appearance fees and per diems.

The Equal Pay Act at a Glance

In sum, the Equal Pay Act requires that men and women in the same workplace be given equal pay for equal work. The jobs, moreover, do not have to be identical, but rather “substantially equal” which is a matter of the work involved, not job titles. The law covers all forms of compensation such as salary, overtime pay, bonuses and other benefits and accommodations.

While this case adds to the growing debate over equal treatment of female athletes and the outcome remains unclear at this time, it has also shone a light on the long-standing wage gap between men and women. In the meantime, if you believe you have been the victim of pay discrimination, an experienced employment attorney can help you get the compensation you deserve.