How Not to Handle an Equal Pay Claim

 

The U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) is in a tailspin at the moment due to self-inflicted wounds. These self-inflicted wounds are just the latest PR disaster in their handling of the lawsuit filed by players on the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) demanding equal pay.

The Equal Pay Act dates to 1963 so the USSF can’t claim they were blind-sided by a new federal law.  The law prohibits disparity in pay between men and women doing the same job.  It was bolstered in 1972 with Title IX of the Education Amendments which prohibited sex discrimination in education and forced schools at all levels to create women’s sports programs.

Since then the USWNT has won the World Cup four times and Olympic gold medals 4 or 5 times.  They are the global standard for women’s professional soccer that all other nations strive to match.  Meanwhile, our men’s team has had trouble recently qualifying for the Olympics and has never made it past the Elimination Round of the World Cup.

That brings us back to the USSF’s bumbling response to the equal pay lawsuit.  Instead of admitting the women might have a point, the USSF has argued that the women’s game is inferior to the men’s game.

On March 9th, the USSF filed its latest pleading which argues that the US Men’s National Team players are paid more than the world-topping women’s players because the men’s game requires more skill, is more physically demanding, and involves more responsibility.   That’s a PR own goal coming from the organization responsible for promoting both national teams.

The USSF has also tried to argue that the men’s game generates more revenue which justifies the pay disparity.  In depositions, the women have pointed out that the USSF spends a lot more money and resources promoting the men’s team than the women’s.  Besides, recently the women have generated higher revenue per game than the men’s team.

The immediate outrage sparked by the USSF’s blatantly sexist pleading was so overwhelming that Carlos Cordeiro resigned as its president before the week ended. But Mr. Cordeiro didn’t operate in a vacuum. The board set the strategy and approved his handling of the lawsuit. They should also resign.

Meanwhile, the USSF has appointed Cindy Parlow Cone, a former USWNT player, as the president while they search for a permanent replacement.  Ms. Cone has been given the thankless task of cleaning up the mess left by the men and trying to salvage USSF’s brand.  Wish her luck.

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

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