Canyon County

4 female nurses at jail file lawsuit claiming Canyon County violated Equal Pay Act

Four female nurses in Canyon County filed a federal lawsuit Monday against the county, claiming that their male colleague, who is also a nurse, gets paid more than they do because of his sex.

Tracy Johnson, Toni Kreiter, Rene Whitneck and Linda Ellis are the plaintiffs in the case. They allege that Canyon County, its commissioners, its sheriff and VitalCore Health Strategies LLC violated the Equal Pay Act of 1963, and they allege discriminatory wages based on sex.

VitalCore Health Strategies is the company contracted to operate the medical unit at the county jail.

The plaintiffs are all licensed practical nurses at the Canyon County jail. The lawsuit claims that the only other LPN employed at the jail is a male — and that he is not being paid more because of seniority, but because he is a man.

Johnson has worked for Canyon County for about 15 years, Kreiter about three years, Whitneck about 15 years and Ellis about 20 years, according to the claim.

The complaint does not name the male LPN but says he has worked for the county for about six years.

The lawsuit claims that the only difference between the women and the male nurse is their uniform. The female nurses wear medical scrubs, while the county allows the male nurse to wear tactical pants and a polo shirt, according to the complaint.

The female LPNs were making between $23.16 and $24.86 an hour, while the male LPN was making $31.24 an hour.

Related: Search our Canyon County salary database

The Idaho Statesman was able to identify the male nurse based on information in the lawsuit and in public records. He is listed in Canyon County salary data as a registered nurse — a certification that requires more education and training than an LPN, and often garners a higher wage. But a national licensing database shows that he is licensed in Idaho as an LPN, not an RN.

“At all relevant times ... (the women) were paid less than their male colleague for equal work, the performance of which required equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which was performed under similar working conditions,” according to the lawsuit.

They allege that the disparity in pay between the women and the man is “not the result of a seniority system, a merit system, a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, nor any other factor other than sex.”

Canyon County spokesman Joe Decker told the Statesman on Tuesday, “We haven’t seen or been served with the complaint, and so (we) have no comment.”

The Statesman reached out to the plaintiffs’ attorney, Eric Swartz, and did not receive an immediate response.

More: Search our local government salary databases

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