Five standout members of the U.S. women's national soccer team have filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against U.S. Soccer Federation that seeks wage equality with their male colleagues.
Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, Rebecca Sauerbrunn, Hope Solo and Alex Morgan have filed the complaint on behalf of the entire team.
"I think the timing is right,'' Lloyd said on NBC's Today show on Thursday. "I think that we've proven our worth over the years. Just coming off of a World Cup win, the pay disparity between the men and women is just too large. And we want to continue to fight."
The complaint was filed Wednesday with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency tasked with enforcing employment discrimination law. In the filing, the players request an investigation into U.S. Soccer's payment structure.
"The numbers speak for themselves," said Solo, a member of the women's natioanl for 15 years, in a statement. “We are the best in the world, have three World Cup Championships, four Olympic Championships, and the USMNT get paid more to just show up, than we get paid to win major championships."
Jeffrey Kessler, the New York-based attorney for the players, said the women's national team members are paid 40 percent of what the U.S. men's national team players make.
"This is one of the strongest cases of gender discrimination I have ever seen," Kessler told USA TODAY Sports. "We have a situation here where the women's have outperformed the men on the field and in every other way yet earn fraction of what the men are paid. This is pretty open and shut case."
Kessler said the filing is the first step toward a potential investigation by the EEOC, which typically leads to negotiations between two parties. A consent agreement could include back pay and ensure an end to the pay imbalance between the men's and women's teams, according to Kessler.
The EEOC could also take an enforcement action against U.S. Soccer to force changes.
"It's disappointing that these players have to force U.S. Soccer to comply with the laws of this country," Kessler said.
Some sort of legal maneuver by the U.S. women's national team players was not unexpected.
The union that represents the players, the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team Players Association, have been in a long-running dispute with U.S. Soccer over whether their collective bargaining agreement was valid. U.S. Soccer filed a lawsuit last year that seeks to establish that the CBA runs through December, including the Summer Olympics in Rio. The union, however, contends the memorandum of understanding agreement from March 2013 spells out the fact the CBA can be terminated at any time.
"While we've not seen this complaint and can't comment on the specifics of it, we're disappointed about this action,'' the U.S. Soccer Federation said in a statement. “We've been a world leader in women's soccer and are proud of the commitment we've made to building the women's game in the United States over the past 30 years."
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