When we last talked about the U.S. Women's National Team ("USWNT"), they were headed to mediation with the United States Soccer Federation, Inc. ("USSF") seeking equal pay and equal working conditions with the U.S. Men's National Team ("USMNT"). The two sides came together with a mediator for a few days to discuss whether they could resolve the lawsuit.
Mediation is a voluntarily private process where parties to a lawsuit employ a neutral third party, who tries to help the parties create their own resolution. Courts have become universally in favor of parties using mediation to see if they can craft a resolution, rather than relying on the court to make a decision.
It took a few days, but on August 14, 2019, both sides walked out with no resolution and immediately went back to the realm of public opinion. The USWNT's spokesperson said in a statement, "We entered this week's mediation with representatives of USSF full of hope. Today we must conclude these meetings sorely disappointed in the federation's determination to perpetuate fundamentally discriminatory workplace conditions and behavior. It is clear that USSF, including its board of directors and president Carlos Cordeiro, fully intend to continue to compensate women players less than men. They will not succeed. We want all of our fans, sponsors, peers around the world, and women everywhere to know we are undaunted and will eagerly look forward to a jury trial."
A USSF spokesperson stated: "We have said numerous times that our goal is to find a resolution, and during mediation we had hoped we would be able to address the issues in a respectful manner and reach an agreement. Unfortunately, instead of allowing mediation to proceed in a considerate manner, plaintiffs' counsel took an aggressive and ultimately unproductive approach that follows months of presenting misleading information to the public in an effort to perpetuate confusion. We always know there is more we can do. We value our players, and have continually shown that, by providing them with compensation and support that exceeds any other women's team in the world. Despite inflammatory statements from their spokesperson, which are intended to paint our actions inaccurately and unfairly, we are undaunted in our efforts to continue discussions in good faith."
The parties seem to be very far apart at this time. While it is quite possible that the parties may decide to give mediation another try at a later date, or they may continue to have informal settlement discussions through their mediator, the case will move forward in federal court. When the case moves forward, the parties will engage in a period of discovery. The discovery phase allows parties to ask for and collect documents and other evidence related to the case. For example, the parties may request information about financials, ticket sales, travel arrangements, and field conditions for the women's and men's teams. The parties will then proceed to take depositions of pertinent witnesses who have knowledge of issues in the case.
Meanwhile, it seems that both sides will continue to appeal to the public. Stay tuned, this topic is not going away any time soon.
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