Female physicians sue Carolinas HealthCare System, say male doctor paid significantly more for same job

A trio of female pediatricians working at an affiliate of Carolinas HealthCare System have filed suit, alleging that CHS paid them substantially less than a male counterpart on the basis of their gender.

Amy Morgan, M.D.; Terri Smith, M.D.; and Erin Harris, M.D., filed a lawsuit against CHS and their direct employer, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Hospital Authority, which does business as NorthEast Physician Network and is affiliated with Carolinas. In the lawsuit, the three doctors say that a male coworker was paid significantly more for doing the same work.

Morgan, who has worked at CMHA since 1999, oversees pediatric hospitalists, including the male physician mentioned in the suit, but made less than him, according to the complaint. Smith and Harris were of the same rank, but had both been employed longer and made less. The three physicians raised concerns about pay to supervisors but neither CMHA nor Carolinas took any action, according to the suit.

“CHS and its affiliates, including CMHA, have engaged in a pattern and practice of paying its female physicians less than its male physicians,” according to the lawsuit. “This case represents a flagrant example of CMHA’S and CHS’ unlawful pay practices.”

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In a statement to FierceHealthcare, Carolinas said that it looked into the matter and found there is “no validity” to the claims in the lawsuit.

“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 provide specific figures for the pay disparity, but attorney Chris Strianese, who is representing the doctors in the lawsuit, told the Charlotte Observer that the gap was wide enough that the women will resign from their jobs.

“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,” Strianese said.

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Two physician compensation surveys released earlier this year found that a gender gap persists in physician pay. Medscape’s annual compensation survey found that male physicians aged 55 to 69 make 27% higher salaries than women, and men under 34 make 18% more. Male specialists earn 31% more than female specialists, and male primary care doctors make 15% more, according to the survey.

The annual Medical Economics Physician Report found that male doctors have an average income of $270,000 per year, which is $66,000 more than their female counterparts who averaged $204,000 annually.