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Mercy Medical Center Hit with Lawsuit Alleging Gender Discrimination and Harassment

— January 10, 2020

A former employee of Mercy Medical Center is suing the hospital for alleged gender discrimination and harassment.

Mercy Medical Center recently came under fire in a lawsuit filed by a former employee accusing the hospital and two of her colleagues of gender discrimination and harassment. According to Jennifer McDowell, she worked as the director of radiology at the hospital for two years. During that time, she was allegedly “undermined, disrespected, and demeaned based on her gender,” and then when she complained about it, she was fired in retaliation. To make matters worse, she also discovered she was being paid “significantly less than a male predecessor.

Image of a Workplace Discrimination Graphic
Workplace Discrimination Graphic; image courtesy of mohamed_hassan via Pixabay,

When responding to the lawsuit, hospital spokeswoman Karen Vander Sanden said:

The hospital firmly denies these claims and believes they will be found meritless. Mercy has a long history of commitment to providing a respectful, inclusive and equal workplace, including providing fair compensation and benefits regardless of gender…Mercy has worked, and will continue to work, in a manner consistent with the highest standards of individual and organizational integrity while meeting all ethical and legal standards.”

She added that the Iowa Civil Rights Commission even reviewed the case and closed it. However, the commission did issue McDowell a ‘right-to-sue’ letter so she could take her case to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa. In filing her suit, McDowell is seeking an unspecified amount of damages in excess of $75,000 from Mercy Medical Center for “past and future wages and lost benefits, damages for emotional distress, attorney’s fees and equitable relief” and accuses the hospital of violating the Iowa Civil Rights Act.

In addition to allegedly violating the Iowa Civil Rights Act, the suit also claims that when McDowell initially interviewed for the position back in October 2016, she was “asked several gender-based questions, including whether she had children and if her husband would move with her if she were offered the job.” Additionally, she learned in May 2018 that she was being paid “less than her male predecessor by approximately $30 per hour, or $62,000 annually, despite being assigned more responsibilities, including overseeing construction of a new facility, coordinating two organizational shifts and managing five departments, compared to her predecessor’s four,” according to the suit. When she asked about the pay disparity, she was allegedly told it was the “result of different job titles, despite the same job description, and seniority, explanations that are inconsistent with Mercy Medical’s policies and practices.”

Soon after she asked about the pay disparity, McDowell was placed on unpaid administrative leave and in August 2018, she was fired. Before her termination, she had never received negative performance reviews or had any disciplinary issues on file.


Former Mercy Medical Center director sues over alleged gender discrimination, unequal pay

Former radiology director sues Mercy Medical Center for allegations of discrimination as far back as her hiring interview

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