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In an unprecedented move, the U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Soccer Teams agreed to joint collective bargaining agreements with the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) on May 18 which guarantees equal pay for both teams. Not only will the teams receive identical performance-based bonuses and appearance fees, the historic nature of the deal comes from the pooling and equal distribution of all prize money earned by each team. This multi-million-dollar deal could have ramifications in competitive sports and beyond as organizations grapple with the demands for equal pay. It also provides lessons for all employers about the steps you should consider when it comes to pay equity compliance.
The Deal Follows a February Settlement
Athletes from the U.S. Women’s World Cup Champion team filed a gender discrimination claim in March 2019 alleging institutionalized gender discrimination in the form of unequal pay and working conditions under the Equal Pay Act (EPA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The players and the Federation recently reached a $24 million settlement which included $22 million in back pay for the class of athletes.
The agreement was conditioned on a new collective bargaining agreement in which the USSF committed to providing equal pay rates for the women’s and men’s national teams. That promise came to fruition with last week’s deal.
The previous pay structure for the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) included substantially lower bonuses than the U.S. Men’s National Team (USMNT) for the same accomplishments – just making the World Cup would net a men’s player $67,000 as compared to just $37,500 for a member of the women’s team.
The real big money – and the significant pay disparity alleged – was in the nature of prize money. In 2019, 24 women’s national teams competed at the World Cup for a total prize pool of $30 million. This year, the 32 men’s teams will compete at the World Cup and split a $450 million prize pool. This resulted in the USWNT earning $4 million for winning 2019 World Cup while a men’s team earned $12 million for merely advancing out of the group stage of the tournament.
The 2018 men’s champion earned $38 million. Because amounts are set by soccer’s international governing body, jurisdiction over prize money was previously viewed as an insurmountable obstacle towards fully equal pay.
The Landmark Agreement
On May 18, the USSF reached a 10-year agreement with the Men’s and Women’s National Team Players Associations which includes a landmark prize-pooling provision. Specifically, the provision establishes that all U.S. Soccer prize money received from FIFA will be pooled and shared equally among the members of both teams. The pool split could result in the teams sharing as much $20 million in the next year.
Additionally, the men’s and women’s teams will switch from the guaranteed-salary system to a “pay-for-play” model the guarantees identical appearance fees and game bonuses for national matches. The agreement guarantees equality in commercial revenue share, accommodations, travel, staffing, and provides the women’s team with parental leave, insurance benefits, and short-term disability.
This agreement marks the culmination of a six-year battle between the USWNT and the USSF. It leaves both the USWNT and the USMNT as two of the highest-paid national soccer teams in the world.
The USWNT’s fight for equal has garnered nationwide attention and this most recent agreement is no exception. The culmination of this matter will likely spur action and scrutiny of employee pay in workplaces at every level. You should use this news as a prompt to take the following steps and ensure your own workplace pay policies are in compliance with the law:
- Evaluate your compensation data to identify pay disparities.
An audit of pay practices is an indispensable first step in any compliance effort. Review your compensation policies and pay determinations to ensure organizational decisions are properly documented. Identify differences in pay across gender and other classifications. Make adjustments or be able and ready to justify any disparities based on legitimate factors such as location, education, or training.
- Implement pay practices designed to comply with the increasing demands of new laws and regulations.
Pay equity laws are complex, exacting, and vary by state. They can carry substantial penalties. Train management level employees, HR staff, and compliance experts who are responsible for determining and monitoring employee compensation and ensure they understand the mandates of the federal Equal Pay Act and applicable state and local laws.
- Educate and train your managers.
Failure to comply with pay equity laws can be costly and defense costs alone can be exorbitant. Often the best defense is a good offense – and organizations can do a lot to protect themselves by understanding the law. This is especially true in pay equity where there are significant differences between federal and state law. Moreover, recent legislation mandating pay transparency and posting requirements impose significant obligations on companies.
Fisher Phillips maintains a comprehensive Pay Equity Map detailing various state laws on pay equity from across the country so that you can quickly check the lay of the land in your state. We’ll continue to monitor development in this area and provide updates as warranted. Make sure you are subscribed to the Fisher Phillips Insight service to ensure you receive the latest news directly to your inbox. For further information, contact your Fisher Phillips attorney, the authors of this Insight, or any member of our Pay Equity Practice Group or Sports Industry Practice Group.
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The pandemic has taught employers that flexibility is key to survival – and thanks to a new law just signed into effect on May 11, Florida employers will not have to worry that any emergency actions they take to aid gig economy workers will be used against them in misclassification claims. Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill that will take effect on July 1 and protect businesses that want to help gig-economy-like independent contractors during states of emergency from legal accusations that they have actually formed an improper employee-employer relationship. Not only will this new law provide much-needed assurance to Florida businesses and workers during the impending hurricane season and any further COVID-19 outbreaks, but it could provide a roadmap for other states looking to encourage flexibility (and compassion) among the business community. What do Florida businesses – and companies across the country looking to this new law with envy – need to know about this new law?
What Problem Does this New Law Solve?
Senate Bill 542, sponsored by Senator Ana Maria Rodriguez (R-Doral), was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support by the Florida state legislature in March. It clarifies that any actions taken by businesses to provide emergency relief for gig economy workers will not destroy the independent contractor relationship, and they will remain shielded from misclassification claims.
The pandemic demonstrated that situations could arise where well-intentioned businesses felt handcuffed from helping their independent contractors. The fear existed that providing emergency aid to gig workers could be used against them to prove a misclassification claim – that the workers should actually be categorized as employees.
Under current legal standards in place across the country, a more formal relationship between business and worker (evidenced by a closer relationship that you would typically see between company and contractor) could lead courts or government agencies to conclude that the worker should have been classified as an employee all along. Any lawsuit or government investigation to that end could lead a business to legal exposure leading to massive costs over overtime wages, workers’ compensation benefits, employee benefits, to just name a few.
This fear prevented some businesses from providing masks, hand sanitizer, and other safety supplies to their independent contractors. They were worried that they would learn the hard way that no good deed goes unpunished. Thanks to SB 542, however, that fear will no longer exist for Florida businesses.
What Does the New Law Say?
The new law says that businesses can provide support to their gig workers during states of emergency without fear of a misclassification finding. Not only will this help during any further COVID-19 outbreaks or future pandemics, but it is particularly timely given the impending hurricane season.
Starting July 1, businesses can take the following four actions during declared emergencies without having to worry about a misclassification claim:
- Provide financial assistance to previously “engaged individuals” who are unable to work because of health and safety concerns;
- Directly provide benefits that are related to the health and safety of engaged individuals, including medical or cleaning supplies, personal protective equipment, health checks, or medical testing;
- Provide training or information related to the health and safety of engaged individuals or the public; or
- Take any action, including action required or suggested by any federal, state, or local law, ordinance, order, or directive which is intended to protect public health and safety.
Under the law, an “engaged individual” is anyone “who provides a good or service to a business or on behalf of a business and who is remunerated for the good or service, regardless of the individual’s classification as an employee or independent contractor.”
“Companies would be able to provide these types of items to their independent contractors without creating a situation where they would be violating any laws,” Rodriguez told her fellow lawmakers as they were preparing to approve the measure.
Businesses across the country should remain hopeful that other states will follow Florida’s lead to provide similar protections. For now, though, Florida businesses should rest easy knowing that their efforts to help gig economy workers during emergencies will not lead to adverse legal findings.
We will continue to monitor and report on any major developments on these issues, so make sure that you are subscribed to Fisher Phillips’ Insights to get the most up-to-date information direct to your inbox. If you have further questions, contact your Fisher Phillips attorney, the author of this Insight, any attorney in our three Florida offices, or any attorney in our Gig Economy Team.
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Have you received a text from a random number in the last few days? Perhaps the text looks quite obviously suspicious, but it could pass as legitimate – especially if you are distracted or multitasking while scrolling through your device. The text contains a link asking you to confirm the delivery or receipt of a package. Or it tells you that you have just paid a bill. Or need to pay an outstanding bill. Or it could just be advertising a random product. These texts are actually scams that have been dubbed “smishing” – combining “SMS” and “phishing” – and your employees are no doubt receiving them, too. In a remote-work era where a multitude of attackers are attempting to gain access to your company network through digital vulnerabilities, the time is now for employers to guard yourself against this latest weapon in the cyberwar raging all around us. What are the five steps your organization can take today to best prepare?
What is Smishing?
“Smishing” is a version of phishing carried out over SMS (short message service, commonly known as texting) channels. The senders of these malicious texts are trying to get hold of personal information, passwords, and money.
Smishers start by sending a text impersonating a reputable company. Typical smishing attempts specifically involve using the name of common parcel carriers informing you that your package has been delivered, or fake texts seemingly coming from a bank, company vendor, or other common company name. The messages almost always have a link. Unfortunate recipients who click that link will often end up having unsuspecting malware downloaded to their devices, or will be lead to a legitimate-looking form to “log in” and voluntarily provide a trove of valuable data.
Smishing is the New Cyberattack
There is ample evidence indicating a rapid increase in smishing attempts. Smishing attacks increased 24% in the U.S. alone and 69% globally last year. According to data from the Federal Trade Commission, 21% of fraud reports that were filed in 2021 involved smishing. That’s 377,840 out of the total 1,813,832 reports that identify a contact method. Of those hundreds of thousands of claims, a total of $131 million was lost, with an average of $900 per report.
Work-from-home and hybrid work arrangements have led your employees to use their mobile phones and company devices at an increasing rate. This has led many of these smishing attacks to have a workplace component.
What Can Employers Do? A 5-Step Plan to Combat Smishing
So what can you do to address this latest cyber-concern? Here are five steps your organization can take to put yourself in the best position.
- Develop Strong BYOD Policies
First, you should have – and enforce – strong BYOD policies. They should include employee obligations relating to data security on company devices, with a new emphasis on smishing scams.
Among other things, the policy should advise employees that they must protect confidential, proprietary, and non-public information, and that they should not allow non-employees to copy or download such information. The policy should also require employees not to share remote access addresses, logins, or passwords with anyone, even if they believe that the individual requesting the information has already been approved for remote access.
- Stay Up to Date
Next, you should make sure you keep company issued phones’ software and web browsers up to date to take advantage of build-in protection features. Ask your employees to do the same for personal devices being used for business purposes.
- Keep Things Need-to-Know
You should also take steps to make confidential or other sensitive information available only on a need-to-know basis. This will minimize the spread of the information and opportunities for cybercriminals to access company data if a device is compromised. You should advise employees who do have access to such information not to provide it in response to a request delivered through text message.
- Enable Multi-Factor Authentication
You should also consider requiring multi-factor authentication to access company systems. This will provide extra security in the event an employee has their password compromised.
- Train, Train, Train
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you should instruct employees to be wary of unsolicited requests for information sent by text and phone call. Educate your employees on the typical hallmarks of smishing schemes, including the sense of urgency often embedded into the message, such as a “limited-time offer” or other call for immediate action. You should caution employees not to tap links in an unexpected text message.
If employees are unsure if the text is legitimate, you should train them to contact the company associated with the text request through a separate source, such as a previously verified phone number. If they receive a text from an unknown number from someone indicating they are a co-worker, you should train the recipient to follow up with the purported sender via company email or phone to confirm the text message.
Fisher Phillips will continue to monitor further developments regarding smishing, so be sure to subscribe to Fisher Phillips’ Insight system to stay up-to-date. If you have any questions regarding how your organization can mitigate the risk of smishing attempts, please consult your Fisher Phillips attorney, the author of this Insight, or a member of Fisher Phillips’ Data Security and Workplace Privacy Practice Group.
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