A judge has ruled in favor of a psychologist who sued a Bangor hospital after discovering that she was being paid about half the hourly wage of her male counterparts.

Dr. Clare Mundell Courtesy photo

U.S. District Judge Lance E. Walker ruled Tuesday that Northern Light Acadia Hospital violated the Maine Equal Pay Act by paying Dr. Clare Mundell less than her male colleagues for comparable work. Per the ruling, the hospital now owes her triple damages for lost wages, totaling over $200,000, according to Portland law firm Johnson, Webbert & Garvan LLP, which represented Mundell.

“The evil redressed by (the Equal Pay Act) is decidedly the impact of unequal pay for comparable work, regardless of the employer’s motivation,” Walker wrote in his decision.

Suzanne Spruce, Northern Light vice president and chief marketing and communications officer, said the company disagrees with the judge’s ruling and intends 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,” she said in a statement.

Spruce did not respond to an email asking why there was such a large pay gap between Mundell and her peers at the hospital.


Mundell joined Acadia Hospital, an acute care and mental health facility, as a pool psychologist in November 2017. She became part of a team with four others who were responsible for a range of services, including psychological testing, consultation, individual and group psychotherapy and crisis intervention. She had prior experience in both public and psychiatric hospitals, and operated private practices in two different states. Her hourly rate was set at $50.

Acadia Hospital was a part of Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems when Mundell was first hired. That organization was renamed Northern Light Health in 2018, not long after it merged with Mercy Health System, which operates Mercy Hospital in Portland, among other health care facilities.

On her 2019 performance evaluation, Mundell received a rating of 4.97 on a scale of 1-5. Her supervisor described her as “a dependable and reliable colleague who presents with a high level of professionalism,” the complaint states.

In October 2019, Mundell learned during a conversation with a male counterpart, identified in the complaint only by his initials, that he earned $90 per hour and that another male psychologist earned $95 per hour. She later learned that the two other female psychologists made $50 and $48.82 per hour, respectively.

The next month, Mundell met with Acadia’s chief medical officer, John Campbell, to express concerns about the pay discrepancies. He told her, according to the complaint, that the human resources department “was evaluating salaries in all hospital departments and that she should wait for the outcome of that evaluation.”

In January 2020, Mundell met with hospital President Scott Oxley, who told her that the evaluation had revealed “pay discrepancies across the hospital.” He then offered her a salaried position, with an equivalent hourly rate of $57 per hour, and later offered her a bonus of $5,000 to address some back pay. Mundell was still upset, primarily because, she said, Oxley never acknowledged that the discrepancies were related to sex.


She also learned that her male counterparts would be paid at their higher rate for an additional three months before it would drop back to $57.

In March 2020, Mundell said, Oxley increased the bonus offer to $20,000.

Soon after, Mundell gave two weeks notice that she was resigning, saying she was “saddened to leave her deeply satisfying clinical work, but profoundly disappointed with the sexism she had experienced at Northern Light and upper management’s failure to see the pay discrepancy issue as a gender-based problem.”

The complaint alleges that she was terminated three days after giving notice.


She filed suit after pursuing complaints for sex discrimination and retaliation with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Maine Human Rights Commission.


On Wednesday, Mundell said Walker’s ruling came about as a result of chance.

“This important case for equal rights for women exists only because I had an impromptu discussion with a male co-worker in our shared office space about the hourly rates we were being paid,” she said in a statement. “Unfair differences in pay for women are widespread across industries and workplaces. We all have the right to talk about what we are paid with our co-workers. I encourage all workers to share this information freely with one another. In this context, knowledge truly is power.”

Valerie Wicks, one of the attorneys who represented Mundell, said it’s important for workers to be able to openly discuss their compensation with colleagues.

“Maine law gives employees the right to disclose their own wages, and to ask about and disclose their co-workers’ wages, for the purpose of enforcing equal pay,” Wicks said in a statement. “As Dr. Mundell’s case shows, this freedom to talk about wages is key to equalizing pay. You can’t fix what you don’t know about.”

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