Psychologist sues, claims Maine hospital paid her half of male colleagues' salary

A clinical psychologist at Northern Light Acadia Hospital in Bangor, Maine, says she earned $50 an hour compared to the $90 and $95 hourly earnings of her two male colleagues, according to the Bangor Daily News

Clare Mundell, PhD, filed suit Jan. 5 against the hospital, alleging unequal pay, sex discrimination and retaliation. The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court in Bangor, seeks unspecified damages and asks that the judge order Northern Light to train all employees in civil rights law and pay disparities. 

The system denies the allegations. 

Dr. Mundell began working at Acadia Hospital in November 2017 as a pool psychologist for $50 per hour. The suit claims that about two years later, she learned two male pool psychologists were making $90 and $95, respectively, an hour. The complaint alleges that two other female pool psychologists earned $50 an hour and the salary equivalent of $48.82 an hour.

Dr. Mundell raised the issue with the hospital's chief medical officer in 2019 and was told that the human resources department was conducting an analysis of pay equity, and to wait for results, according to the complaint. 

After hospital leaders conducted the analysis in January 2020, Acadia Hospital President Scott Oxley allegedly told Dr. Mundell the audit had uncovered "pay discrepancies across the hospital," according to the suit, and returned to Dr. Mundell the next month with a proposal to adjust the hourly pay for pool psychologists to $57. The two male pool psychologists would allegedly continue to earn $90 and $95 an hour through May to "ease their transition" to lower pay she was told, according to the suit. 

When Dr. Mundell asked for back pay to make up for the discrepancy in pay for more than two years, Mr. Oxley allegedly said that was not possible but offered her a one-time "appreciation" bonus of $5,000, according to the complaint.

Later, he allegedly offered to pay the difference in two ways: (1) the $7 difference between her former pay of $50 per hour and new rate of $57 per hour, and (2) the difference between her new $57 hourly rate and the $90 and $95 hourly rates her male colleagues would continue to receive through May. 

The suit claims that Dr. Mundell expressed disappointment in how the discrepancy was handled and dissatisfaction with the offer of a bonus to remedy it. It alleges that Dr. Mundell suggested Mr. Oxley ask the hiring manager for an explanation of the discrepancies, to which he replied, "That would be on you to pursue. What do you want me to do, go through every inequality I found and reimburse everyone?" 

Dr. Mundell resigned in March 2020. She was not permitted to work through her notice period, according to the suit. 

In a statement obtained by Bangor Daily News, Northern Light spokesperson Suzanne Spruce denied the allegations in the lawsuit:

"It is patently false to say that Acadia Hospital has a 'practice of paying female employees much less than their male colleagues,' and it is also untrue that there is a widespread problem of gender-based pay disparity at Acadia Hospital or any of Northern Light Health's other facilities. 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."

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