An economic analyst hired by a doctor suing Southern Illinois University School of Medicine says there is little chance that pay disparities faced by female faculty members are the result of chance.
D.C. Sharp, a Tennessee-based expert and managing director of Econ One Research Inc. retained by former SIU surgeon Dr. Sajida Ahad, wrote in a July 14 report that he found “statistically significant compensation disparities” in SIU doctor pay and “a pattern of gender pay disparity from 2010 to 2016.”
But Chen Song, a California-based financial analyst and Nathan Associates Inc. senior vice president hired by the Springfield medical school, said in her May 8 report that “analyses of total compensation by department show no common pattern of gender pay disparity from 2010 to 2016 for physician faculty members.”
Song added “there is no common proof that female physician faculty members received statistically significant and unfavorably unequal pay for equal work relative to their male colleagues.”
Ahad, 42, a general and bariatric surgeon employed by SIU and serving patients through group practice SIU HealthCare from 2008 through 2014, sued SIU and the practice in 2015 for gender-based pay discrimination.
Ahad also alleged in the suit in U.S. District Court that other female physicians at the Springfield-based medical school were being paid unfairly compared with male physicians.
She is seeking class-action status for her lawsuit. There’s been no decision in court on that request yet.
Ahad currently is employed as a surgeon by the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. She hasn’t asked for a certain amount of monetary damages.
It’s unclear when or whether her case will result in a jury trial or bench trial, or both, but it appears the case won’t be resolved this year, according to one of her lawyers, J. Bryan Wood of Chicago.
SIU spokeswoman Karen Carlson declined comment Wednesday on the experts’ reports, which were filed in Springfield’s federal court by Ahad’s lawyers Aug. 10.
Carlson told The State Journal-Register in October, in response to questions about the suit, that the medical school values diversity and is “committed to our standards of equal employment opportunities for all of our employees.”
Carlson added at the time: “We continue to conduct all personnel activities in accordance with the letter and spirit of applicable state and federal regulations.”
Order to pay
A U.S. Department of Labor administrative law judge in April 2016 ordered SIU to pay Ahad $223,884, plus interest, after she filed a complaint. The judge in that case decided that Ahad, a native of Pakistan with visa status as a permanent U.S. resident, was underpaid in comparison with her colleagues.
The judge ruled that Ahad deserved the money because SIU erred in applying federal wage requirements dealing with workers from other countries.
SIU hasn’t paid any of the amount ordered because it has appealed the administrative law judge’s ruling to the labor department’s administrative review board, Wood said.
A decision from the board could come sometime in 2018, he said.
Since the April 2016 order from the administrative judge, SIU has refused to discuss settling the federal case, Wood said.
In 2013, the last full fiscal year that Ahad worked for SIU, she received a base salary of $125,000 from the medical school and $110,903 from SIU HealthCare, according to Sharp’s report.
At the University of Iowa, her total compensation for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2017, totaled $441,895, an amount that included a base salary of $270,000, according to University of Iowa spokesman Tom Moore.
Song, in her May report on SIU’s pay structure, criticized the way Ahad’s expert, Sharp, concluded in his initial report from March that there were gender-based pay disparities.
Using new data from Song’s report, Sharp then produced the July analysis. Accounting for a variety of factors, Sharp still found that female physicians at SIU were being paid more than $12,200 per year less than male doctors for similar work.
Song then responded to Sharp’s most recent report and said, in an analysis dated Aug. 2, that she stuck by her original conclusions in SIU’s defense.
Ahad told The State Journal-Register this month that when she was employed by SIU, she suspected her rate of pay was unfairly low compared with similarly qualified male doctors.
Ahad said she complained about her pay, but her superiors denied any bias and told her that her pay rate was set based on “market forces.”
One reason Ahad said she filed the suit was to help other female doctors.
“I expect increased awareness,” she said, adding that gender-based pay disparities are “rampant. It’s not just medicine. … It’s because nobody is standing up and saying this is not fair.”
Wood said male doctors often earn more than similarly qualified women because they are given more support, through additional staff, so they can be more productive.
— Contact Dean Olsen: firstname.lastname@example.org, 788-1543, twitter.com/DeanOlsenSJR.