To see how far the interest in equal pay has grown, you can look no further than a high school women’s soccer team in Burlington, Vermont.
Earlier this month, during a women’s soccer game between the Burlington High School Seahorses and South Burlington Wolves, yellow cards were issued to four Seahorse players for celebrating after a teammate scored a goal to seal the team’s victory. The players were yellow carded for lifting their jerseys to reveal T-shirts that read “#EQUALPAY.”
Apparently, state athletic regulations don’t allow players to wear clothing with slogans.
Fans in the stands erupted, chanting “Equal Pay.” It was an epic moment for the Seahorses and reminiscent of the chant from an international audience that serenaded the U.S. Women’s National Team after its recent World Cup victory.
According to news reports, the girls were inspired by the USWNT and their efforts to achieve equal pay for equal work. The team worked with Vermont Women’s Fund, the Vermont Commission on Women, and Vermont Works for Women to create the t-shirts to spread awareness to pay disparity and looks to achieve equal pay for women in the workplace. According to a survey by PayScale, women in Vermont earn 87 cents for every dollar earned by men. PayScale found that nationally, women earn 79 cents for every dollar earned by men.
The soccer team’s stunt was a hit. The team has received national news coverage. It has already sold hundreds of their equal pay t-shirts, including one to the referee who issued the yellow cards to the players.
Before USWNT took home the World Cup, the team filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against USSF in the United District Court in Los Angeles under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the 28 members of the women’s national team. The lawsuit is asking for class-action status, which would allow former national team players from 2015 onward to participate. The lawsuit ends a 2016 complaint to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) by some members of the women’s national team, which resulted in the EEOC advising the players they had the right to sue the USSF over pay discrimination issues.
The class-action lawsuit will not be heard until May 2020.
But their efforts have already had some impact. FIFA announced earlier this month its plan to invest an additional $500 million into women’s soccer over the next four years, totaling $1billion.
Employers should take note that efforts to close the gender pay gap continue to gain momentum across the U.S. If you have not started to assess where your organization stands in providing pay equity to your workforce, now may be a good time to start.
A pay equity audit can identify pay differences between employees that cannot be explained due to job-related factors. This type of audit not only identifies problems, but also provides actionable solutions. It gives employers an opportunity to ensure fairness in pay and prevent employee issues. It allows the employer to minimize risk by identifying and remediating deficiencies, providing the employer with greater standing to defend against and win claims of discrimination.
Overall, a comprehensive proactive pay equity audit is the best place to start to understand what your company is doing right, and where it can improve, before regulatory investigations and employee lawsuits require you to provide this information.
A report from Harvard Business Review Analytic Services found that mitigating risks of potential enforcement actions or lawsuits was one of the top reasons why employers undertook pay equity audits.
To read a Harvard Business Review Analytic Services report on pay equity audits and why they are becoming a business necessity to address increasing equal pay regulation, click here.