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International Female Soccer Player Wins Action Against French Club Team

As of January 1, 2021, FIFA, the international soccer governing body, began requiring all club teams to allow at least 14 weeks of maternity leave for players and to pay them a minimum of two-thirds of their full salary. In addition, club teams must reintegrate the players into their football activity and provide "adequate ongoing medical support." Clubs ending a player's contract for pregnancy may have to pay the owed compensation, a fine, and may be banned from the transfer market for one year.

Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir became the first female soccer player to seek enforcement of the rule. Gunnarsdottir played for the French team, Lyon, part of Olympique Lyonnais. Gunnarsdottir asked to return to her native Iceland after learning she was pregnant. Her doctor had advised her to stop playing. Gunnarsdottir asserted that her regular paychecks stopped after she returned to Iceland. She received a small amount from social security, which the team said complied with French law. Gunnarsdottir intended to continue playing for Lyon after she gave birth and did return. However, the team would not allow her to travel with her baby, even though she was breastfeeding, and the team diminished her role. Gunnarsdottir moved on to another team.

FIFAPros, the international players union, helped Gunnarsdottir fight for her wages. The FIFA tribunal awarded Gunnarsdottir more than $88,000 in back pay for violating its rule. The decision states that Lyon failed in its "duty of care" toward Gunnarsdottir during her pregnancy, including reaching out to see how she was doing. FIFA gave Lyon 45 days to pay or face a penalty.