A group of female nurse practitioners and physician assistants at the University Hospital is suing the University, claiming that they were discriminated against on the basis of gender in decisions involving pay.

Court documents pertaining to the suit, filed in Washtenaw County Circuit Court, list 30 female University Health System employees who claim that over the past three years the University paid them lower wages than male colleagues working in comparable jobs.

The employees claim the University violated the federal Equal Pay Act of 1963, which forbids employers from discriminating on the basis of sex in matters of compensation.

The employees also claim that by paying them less than their male colleagues the University violated the state of Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based upon religion, race and sex, among other factors.

As a result, the women – who work in various medical departments including radiology, oncology and cardiology – are seeking back wages for the past three years, monetary damages for the University’s discrimination and a court order forcing the University to compensate them fairly in the future.

Several employees named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit declined to comment because the case is still open.

According to a statement released to The Michigan Daily by University Hospital spokesmen Drew Jarvis, the University “has carefully studied the pay of the its nurse practitioners and physician assistants and has determined that it is appropriate and not discriminatory in any way.”

The University’s statement seems to indicate that the case is headed to court.

“We are confident that a court will agree that the University establishes its pay in a fair and non-discriminatory manner, and not on the basis of gender,” it says.

Michael Pitt, a Royal Oak-based attorney representing the University Hospital employees, said the University has until February to respond to the suit, at which time it can either dismiss or respond to the charges.

Although the case was initially filed with in county circuit court, the University filed on Friday to move the case to a federal court because the employees’ discrimination allegations fell under the federal Equal Pay Act of 1963. The motion was granted.

Pitt said that because the claim also applies at the state level, under the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, the employees would soon make a motion for the case to additionally be heard at the state level.

This lawsuit joins another ongoing discrimination case, filed by former Law School Prof. Peter Hammer, who claims the Law School denied him tenure in 2002 because he is openly gay.

Later this month, University lawyers will ask a Lansing circuit court judge to throw out Hammer’s case for a third time since Hammer filed the suit in 2005.

Click here to see the suit document.

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