U.S. women's team granted class action status in equal-pay lawsuit

FILE PHOTO: Women's World Cup Final - United States v Netherlands
FILE PHOTO: Women's World Cup Final - United States v Netherlands

(Reuters) - The members of the U.S. women's national soccer team who sued the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) in March over allegations of gender discrimination can pursue their claims as a class action, a California court ruled on Friday.

The decision comes two months after the group filed a motion for class certification seeking to include all women called up to the national team over the multi-year period specified in the lawsuit, in addition to those originally named.

"This is a historic step forward in the struggle to achieve equal pay," Molly Levinson, a spokeswoman for the players, said in a statement.

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"We are so pleased that the Court has recognized USSF's ongoing discrimination against women players - rejecting USSF's tired arguments that women must work twice as hard and accept lesser working conditions to get paid the same as men."

U.S. Soccer did not immediately respond when asked in an email by Reuters to comment on the decision made by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

The governing body for soccer in the United States has maintained that the men's and women's teams are paid differently due to differences in their collective bargaining agreements.

In granting class status, the judge essentially rejected U.S. Soccer's claims that many of the women named in the lawsuit had earned more than their top-earning male counterparts over the same period.

According to the judge's written ruling, agreeing with U.S. Soccer's argument could yield an 'absurd result,' in which a woman could be paid half as much as a man as long as she negated the disparity by working twice as many hours.

All 28 members of the U.S. squad sued U.S. Soccer with allegations of gender discrimination just three months before they opened the successful defence of their World Cup title in France this year.

The players, a group that includes stars Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan, said they have been consistently paid less money than their male counterparts even though their performance has been superior to the men's team.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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