A federal judge ruled Friday in favor of the United States Soccer Federation, dismissing a claim it violated the Equal Pay Act by allegedly discriminating against female athletes.
District Judge R. Gary Klausner granted in part a motion for summary judgment sought by the U.S. Soccer Federation, siding with its lawyers in a dispute involving athlete pay.
He allowed other aspects of the lawsuit to move ahead, however, setting the stage for lawyers representing members of the U.S. women’s national team to pursue different claims in court.
An attorney for the team said they would appeal the dismissal of their equal pay claim, and Democratic presidential hopeful Joseph R. Biden said he would get involved if elected.
Lawyers for members of the women’s team filed the suit against U.S. Soccer in March 2019, seeking more than $66 million in damages for alleged violations of the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Judge Klausner, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, ultimately dismissed the suit’s claim that athletes on the Women’s National Team have been underpaid in comparison to players on the Men’s National Team in violation of federal anti-discrimination law.
“In sum, Defendant has offered evidence in support of its Motion for Summary Judgment that the WNT has been paid more on both a cumulative and an average per-game basis than the MNT over the class period,” he ruled from U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
But he did not dismiss allegations that U.S. Soccer violated Title VII, which protects employees against discrimination based on characteristics such as sex. He said the plaintiffs can move forward with its claim that female athletes have been subjected to unequal working conditions, paving the way for their argument to go to trial as soon as next month.
Molly Levinson, a spokeswoman for the women’s team, said the plaintiffs were “shocked and disappointed” that their unequal claim pay was rejected and said they would appeal.
“We are confident in our case and steadfast in our commitment to ensuring that girls and women who play this sport will not be valued as lesser just because of their gender,” she said in a statement.
Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, offered his support for the athletes Saturday on Twitter, tweeting: “don’t give up this fight. This is not over yet.”
The former vice president also singled out U.S. Soccer on social media and threatened the organization with an ultimatum.
“To @USSoccer: equal pay, now. Or else when I’m president, you can go elsewhere for World Cup funding,” Mr. Biden’s account tweeted.
Neil Buethe, a spokesman for U.S. Soccer, said in a statement that the organization looks forward to working with the women’s team “to chart a positive path forward” in the U.S. and internationally.
“U.S. Soccer has long been the world leader for the women’s game on and off the field, and we are committed to continuing that work to ensure our Women’s National Team remains the best in the world and sets the standard for women’s soccer,” he said in the statement.
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