The U.S. Soccer Federation’s equal pay lawsuit settlement with female players received final approval from a federal judge, reducing legal costs from $6.6 million to $5.5 million.
In an order issued Wednesday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals asked the parties if they objected to the dismissal of the appeal, which is still pending on the docket. The order on legal costs issued on January 4 by U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner in Los Angeles was cited.
In a 2019 lawsuit, players demanded compensation from the USSF in accordance with the federal Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
In May 2020, Klausner rejected the equal wage suit but upheld the claims for unfair working conditions. While players appealed the wage claim to the 9th Circuit, the parties reached an agreement on the working conditions aspect that December.
On February 22, the parties agreed a salary agreement that includes $22 million in addition to a $2 million fund for the players’ post-soccer careers and humanitarian initiatives to expand the sport for women.
Hope Solo, a goalkeeper who filed a lawsuit against the USSF in 2018 citing sex status discrimination and violations of the Equal Pay Act, submitted an objection in October, in part due to the suggested legal fees. Winston & Strawn served as the players’ legal counsel.
On December 12, Klausner gave final clearance; however, he deferred making a decision regarding legal fees until January 4.
According to Klausner, “the court determines that an award of $5.5 million, representing 22% of the $22 million common fund, is reasonable and that there are no exceptional circumstances that require an upward or downward deviation.” The court rejects the class counsel’s claim that the circumstances call for an award of $6.6 million (30% of the fund).
“Class counsel claims that a considerable deal of effort was put into this lawsuit over a three-year period, including reviewing documents, taking depositions, briefing substantive motions, participating in mediation, and pursuing an appeal. It undoubtedly did. However, a large portion of the work needed is due to the plaintiffs having their equal pay claims dismissed on summary judgment, which led to the loss of their claims.
“This fact calls into question the class counsel’s other claim that it obtained an extraordinary outcome. Undoubtedly, class counsel was successful, but not enough to justify a departure from the 25% standard.
A total of $1,369,127 in reimbursable expenses, including $50,000 for projected settlement administration costs, were also given by Klausner to cover expert fees, meals, travel, and document preparation.
In order to pay its men’s and women’s national teams equally, the USSF and its women’s and men’s players unions negotiated landmark collective negotiating agreements in May. The agreements were signed in September.