Clare Mundell is pictured at the Bangor Daily News office on Sept. 22. Credit: Natalie Williams / BDN

Northern Light Health paid a Bangor psychologist less than 60 percent of what her male colleagues made while she was working at Acadia Hospital, but it was not because of her sex, the hospital system said this week in a court filing.

The court filing came in response to a lawsuit Clare Mundell, who is also a Bangor School Committee member, filed in U.S. District Court in Bangor on Jan. 5. Mundell is seeking unspecified damages for unequal pay, sex discrimination and retaliation.

Mundell was paid $50 per hour as a pool psychologist while other pool psychologists, both male, made $90 and $95 per hour. After Mundell complained about the unequal pay, all pool psychologists had their hourly pay set at $57 per hour, though Northern Light deferred the change in pay for the male psychologists for three months to “ease their transition” to the new salary, Northern Light confirmed in its response to Mundell.

Northern Light also admitted that it did not allow Mundell to work during the two-week period after she submitted her resignation in March 2020.

Mundell’s Augusta-based attorneys, Carol Garvan and Valerie Wicks, said that they were “pleased” that Northern Light confirmed it had paid two male pool psychologists nearly double the salary of Mundell and another female psychologist.

“We are optimistic that the filing indicates a broader willingness to confront and correct pay inequities across Northern Light,” Wicks said.

Northern Light said Tuesday it had not discriminated against Mundell “in any way” and continues to be committed to treating employees equally.

“Northern Light Health looks forward to its day in court and is confident it will be exonerated once the true facts are presented,” a statement from the health care system said.

Northern Light Health’s response confirmed most of Mundell’s story in the original filing. She began working at Acadia Hospital, a psychiatric hospital in Bangor, in November 2017, where her starting pay was $50 an hour. Another female pool psychologist employed by Northern Light was paid $50 an hour, and another was paid a salary equivalent to about $48.82 per hour, according to Mundell’s filing and confirmed by Northern Light.

Mundell’s lawyers described their client as a qualified psychologist who received high performance evaluation ratings. Both Mundell and the other two female psychologists — who are not a party to the lawsuit — performed work that was similar to that of the two male pool psychologists, they said.

When Mundell reported the pay discrepancy to her supervisors, Acadia Hospital President Scott Oxley told her in January 2020 that the discrepancy was not based on gender bias, Mundell said in her complaint.

To address the discrepancy, Oxley offered her $57 per hour and a $5,000 bonus in February 2020. However, Mundell — disappointed in the response of her supervisors — felt she deserved more compensation to make up for the lengthy pay discrepancy.

Mundell said Oxley offered $20,000 in retroactive compensation on March 4, 2020, along with a $57-per-hour rate, though Northern Light denies this. Mundell emailed a resignation notice to Northern Light officials two days later, citing sexism.

While she planned to work for two weeks after her resignation, on March 9, Acadia Hospital Lead Psychologist Lora Stanchfield told her she didn’t need to come back to work after that day, according to Mundell’s filing and confirmed by Northern Light in its response.

This upset Mundell, who said it deprived her of the opportunity to tell her patients that she was leaving.

An internal investigation by Northern Light did not find that pay disparities were based on gender, according to the hospital system’s response.