Maine hospital unlawfully underpaid psychologist compared to male colleagues, federal judge rules

Northern Light Acadia Hospital violated Maine's equal pay law by paying male and female employees different wages for the same work, a federal judge ruled Feb. 8. 

The ruling came after Clare Mundell, PhD, sued the Bangor-based hospital Jan. 5, 2021, alleging unequal pay, sex discrimination and retaliation. Dr. Mundell filed the complaint in the U.S. District Court in Maine. The lawsuit claims that two years after she started working at the hospital in 2017 as a pool psychologist, Dr. Mundell learned that she and other female pool psychologists earned $50 an hour, while two of her male colleagues earned $90 and $95 per hour. 

After making the discovery, Dr. Mundell notified hospital leadership about the issue, and hospital leaders soon began a process to standardize pay for male and female workers, according to court documents. 

"After a series of conversations between [Dr. Mundell] and Acadia in which the parties attempted to arrive at a mutually agreeable solution, [Dr. Mundell] informed Acadia that she intended to resign due to her dissatisfaction with the gender pay disparity," the court documents said. "Though [Dr. Mundell] intended to resign two weeks following her notice, she was terminated three days after she gave notice."

The judge, Lance Walker of the U.S. District Court in Maine, only ruled on the unequal pay allegation. He wrote that Dr. Mundell is entitled to back pay for the period she was "unlawfully underpaid" by the psychiatric hospital. He also wrote that she is entitled to liquidated damages.

The hospital, part of Brewer, Maine-based Northern Light Health, disagreed with the court's ruling and plans to appeal. 

"Northern Light Health is committed to treating all of its employees, regardless of gender, or any other protected class, fairly and equitably as it works to provide top quality care to the people of Maine, especially during this pandemic," the hospital said in a statement shared with Becker's

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