Former UIHC manager sues for gender bias

Courtney Mace Davis, former acting director of the University of Iowa Health Care’s Central Sterilizing Services, filed a lawsuit against UIHC and the state Board of Regents, citing gender discrimination, pay discrimination, and retaliation for reporting gender discrimination.


Jerod Ringwald

UIHC is seen on Wednesday, April 7, 2021.

Rachel Schilke and Caitlin Crome

A former University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics employee is suing UIHC and the state Board of Regents for gender bias and discrimination under the Iowa Civil Right Act.

Courtney Mace Davis, 52, of Winfield, Iowa, filed a lawsuit April 1 alleging gender discrimination, pay discrimination, and retaliation for reporting gender discrimination.

According to the petition, Mace Davis is seeking to recover damages for financial and emotional harm, as well as “equitable relief that will help advance the role and rights as women in leadership in UIHC and medicine generally.”

UIHC Public Relations Manager Laura Shoemaker told The Daily Iowan that because this litigation is pending, the hospital is unable to comment.

UIHC hired Mace Davis in May 2011 as a Quality and Operational Improvement and Lean Management Engineer. In May 2014, she was hired directly into UIHC Central Sterilizing Services.

The petition states that Mace Davis was warned by several women in the Central Sterilizing Services department that it was a “good ol’ boys club.”

Despite the fact that historically men had served over a long period of time in the role, Mace Davis received the highest-level performance reviews from three different individuals, according to the petition.

She was recognized for exceptional work four years in a row, nationally and internationally for a collaborative and team-based approach to quality and safety, the petition stated.

In January 2018, Ben Hall became the new director of Central Sterilizing Services. The petition stated that Mace Davis began to see a difference in treatment between men and women.

According to the petition, women leaders were excluded from decision-making. Mace Davis raised concerns over sterilization procedures and a meeting was called, according to the petition, but only men were allowed to attend.

Mace Davis reported that she was told at the time that she would be paid a bonus prior to June 2018 for her exceptional performance leading the Central Sterilizing Services department away from historically unsafe practices related to the way instruments were cleaned and sterilized for surgeries.

This bonus, however, was never paid to Mace Davis, the petition said, but a man partnered on this same initiative was awarded a bonus in December 2017.

After performing the work for a year, Mace Davis was promoted to acting director of the Central Sterilizing Services department in July 2018. During summer 2018, the petition alleged, Frank Eischens, who was the director of supply chain at the time, was looking to undermine a female consultant on a Central Sterilizing Services project.

The petition stated that Mace Davis had prior experience with Eischens disliking women and speaking to women, including herself, in a derogatory manner. She decided to go to then-Human Resources Director David Burgeon, the petition stated.

Burgeon said he had received similar complaints about Eischens in the past, according to the petition. Burgeon told Ms. Mace Davis that with her complaint and information she provided, he wanted to “nail [Frank] to the wall”, the petition stated.

Mace Davis was not aware of any upcoming formal investigation or impeding remedial action following her complaint, according to the petition.

Mace Davis was directed to Ombudsperson Cynthia Joyce, the petition said, who told her that Eischens was put on notice, but no further action would be taken. The petition stated that instead, Eischens received a 16 percent pay raise.

In October 2018, Mace Davis was promised another bonus after overseeing the Ambulatory Surgery Center Central Sterilization Service, according to the petition, but also did not receive it after UIHC told her they could not pay her for any additional work relating to her position.

Instead, the petition states, in the same month, Hall told Mace Davis that her position as acting director would be posted, despite the job never being posted prior to her taking up the position. UIHC hired a 39-year-old man to replace Mace Davis.

This decision to remove Ms. Mace Davis was consistent with gender bias (expecting her to do the work without reward but not wanting to put a female in full control), the petition alleged.

“Ms. Mace Davis was bypassed for decisions that required her qualifications and expertise, and those decisions were made by under-qualified or less-qualified men, including Mr. Eischens.”

Mace Davis was fired “unexpectedly and without notice for performance after nearly eight years of employment with UIHC,” the petition stated.

Mace Davis’ attorney, Thomas Newkirk, cited many patterns in the petition as evidence for gender discrimination:

  • Hiring women and having them forced out or fired.
  • Women being subjected to demeaning behavior by men.
  • The reluctance to place women in full leadership roles, only placing them in leadership roles after exceptional performance or expecting them to do the work of leadership roles without financial reward or title.
  • The double standards in hiring, promotion and pay, which affected Ms. Mace Davis and other females before her.

The court date has not yet been set for the trial.