Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir, recently retired captain of the Women’s National Football Team, has won her maternity case against former club and employer Olympique Lyonnais.
Read more: Captain Sara Björk Retires from National Team
During her time at the prestigious French football club, she became the first Icelander to score in the finals of a Champions League match, among other achievements.
After becoming pregnant in 2021, however, she ran up against cultural expectations within professional sports that discourage athletes from having children during the height of their careers.
Sara Björk arranged with her club to return to Iceland for the duration of her pregnancy, with the understanding that she would return to the team after giving birth. However, Lyon soon began withholding her pay. When it became clear the withheld pay was part of a pattern, Sara Björk pressed claims against Lyon. Now, she has been awarded the back pay, plus interest, in a landmark case of maternity rights in professional sports.
Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir’s landmark ruling against former club Olympique Lyonnais sends a clear message to clubs and footballers worldwide:— FIFPRO (@FIFPRO) January 17, 2023
The strict application of maternity rights is enforceable.
🔗 https://t.co/SmInzY0xBs pic.twitter.com/aXd4zbazFm
Sara Björk now plays for the Italian club Juventus. A full account of her pregnancy and subsequent battle with Lyon can be read here.
In a statement on social media, Sara Björk said: “This is not ‘just business.’ This is about my rights as a worker, as a woman and as a human being.”