Female doctors sue CHS, say male physician paid ‘substantially more’ for same work

Female doctors sue CHS, say male physician paid ‘substantially more’ for same work

CHARLOTTE, NC (Cassie Cope and Maria David/The Charlotte Observer) - Three female doctors allege they have been paid substantially less than their male counterpart in a federal lawsuit filed against Carolinas HealthCare System on Monday.

The lawsuit says that a male coworker, who worked as a hospital pediatrician, was paid "substantially more" than the three female doctors for doing the same job. The doctors are suing their Concord employer, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Hospital Authority, which does business as NorthEast Physician Network, and is an affiliate of Carolinas HealthCare.

Carolinas HealthCare issued a statement on Monday evening saying that the company could not speak directly about the pending litigation. In a subsequent statement the company said: "We have looked into this matter and found no validity for these claims. Carolinas HealthCare System is consistently committed to fair and equitable compensation for all of our teammates, and we abide by all state and federal employment laws."

The lawsuit did not state how much money the female doctors are paid or how much money the male doctor is paid.

But attorney Chris Strianese, who is representing the women, said the pay gap was significant enough that the doctors plan to end their employment with Carolinas HealthCare.

"Salary differences between men and women that are set for discriminatory reasons tend to add up over time in a way that makes the amount significant and significant enough to our clients to pursue litigation over," Strianese said.

The three female doctors filing suit are:

  • Dr. Amy Morgan who has worked for the hospital system for 26 years and supervises other hospital pediatricians, including the male coworker.
  • Dr. Terri Smith who has worked for the hospital system for about 26 years and has two more years of experience as a hospital pediatrician than the male coworker.
  • Dr. Erin Harris who has worked for the hospital for 10 years and practiced as a hospital pediatrician for about the same number of years as the male coworker.

Male doctors are often paid more than female doctors, according to a 2017 physician salary survey by Medscape.

Male primary care physicians reported earning $229,000 a year while females reported earning $197,000, according to the survey.

Men making more money than women is common in the medical profession, said Kim Templeton, the immediate past president of the American Medical Women's Association.

"It's disrespectful," said Templeton, who is a professor of orthopedic surgery and practicing physician at the University of Kansas Health System.

In addition, some studies have concluded that female doctors have better outcomes with some patients, she said.

"You're paying female physicians less and to a great degree their patients have better outcomes," she said.

While there's some concern that women do not negotiate, Templeton said, the health care profession is not fully recognizing or respecting women's talents, she said.

In their suit against Carolinas HealthCare, the three doctors allege there is no "justifiable basis" for paying the male doctor more than the female doctors, the lawsuit says.

Other male pediatric and general hospital doctors were also paid more than the three female doctors because of their gender, the lawsuit says. In addition, the female doctors were made to cover less favorable shifts more often than similarly situated male physicians, the lawsuit says.

The female doctors "repeatedly complained to their superiors about the unlawful pay practices," the complaint adds.

The three doctors all gave notice that they do not intend to renew their contracts and will resign this year, the lawsuit says.

The female doctors, the suit says, "were not paid less than their male counterparts on the basis of seniority, merit, quantity, or quality of production, or a factor other than sex, but were paid less due to their gender."