Is Caitlin Clark’s WNBA Salary Illegal?: Pay Disparity, the Equal Pay Act, and the WNBA

Apr 24 2024

Josh Goodbaum: Hi, Amanda.

Amanda DeMatteis: Hi, Josh. I hear we have a fun topic today.

Goodbaum: Well, the topic is basketball, and I know it’s fun for you because you are a huge basketball fan. We had March Madness not that long ago. We have the NBA playoffs coming up soon and at the end of March Madness was the WNBA draft for some huge players, including maybe the most famous women’s basketball player ever, Caitlin Clark. So, tie it to employment law somehow, Amanda. I dare you.

DeMatteis: Challenge accepted. So yes, you’re right – huge basketball fan. My husband and I love basketball, going to games, watching games on TV, go Celtics! We’re ready for the playoffs. But the WNBA draft, the most watched WNBA draft ever, almost beat the most watched WNBA game last season. Caitlin Clark was the very obvious number one pick. Her counterpart, Victor Wembanyama, was the number one pick for the NBA on the male side of this. Their pay disparity is mind-boggling: Caitlin Clark’s four-year rookie contract – $338,056. Victor Wembanyama’s contract – $55 million.

Now, I have heard all the arguments that “Hey, the WNBA doesn’t do the revenue that the NBA does.” And I understand that. But it’s just mind-boggling to see this huge pay disparity between a woman who’s at the top of her game in basketball and a man who’s at the top of his game in basketball.

So, what can we do to help you, Connecticut employees, to make sure that this isn’t happening to you at work? Well, we have our Equal Pay Act in Connecticut, and what that requires is that you are being paid equal to your male or female counterparts for equal work. It also allows you to go to your employer to say, “Hey, what does that position pay?” There used to be this inability to be able to go to your boss or to your employer and find out what others make at work. And now, you still can’t go and ask, “Hey, you know, what does Josh make? What does Amanda make? What does Josh make?” You can’t do that. But you can inquire about specific titles: a program analyst, an orthopedic surgeon, you name it. You can find out what that title pays at work to make sure that you are being paid equal pay for equal work.

Of course, we have the federal Equal Pay Act, which, Josh, I think you’re gonna tell us how that’s been used recently in the sports context. And, also in Connecticut, you have the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act, which protects against various forms of discrimination and retaliation, including on the basis of sex.

So, if you don’t think you are being treated equally to a male or female counterpart at work, you have some rights here in Connecticut. So, while I wish we could fix this NBA/WNBA problem right now, I think we’re gonna have to leave that for another day, Josh.

Goodbaum: Well, we can bring it back to sports, Amanda, and hey, you never know, because remember that the U.S. Women’s National Team in soccer filed a lawsuit under the Equal Pay Act, saying, “You know what, we’re bigger than the men over there, yet we’re getting paid a lot less,” and ultimately, that case settled for, I believe, something like 25 million dollars.

So, the Equal Pay Act is a very powerful tool even in the hands of famous athletes, and if it can help famous athletes, maybe it can help you here in Connecticut. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us, and thanks for watching. We’ll see you next time.

DeMatteis: See you.

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josh goodbaum discussing caitlin clark's wnba salary

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