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Judge: Norway violated Minnesota’s equal-pay law

January 1, 2015

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The Norwegian government violated Minnesota’s equal-pay laws by paying a female former employee $30,000 less than a male counterpart, a federal judge has ruled.

In a 191-page decision issued Wednesday, Norway was also ordered to pay Ellen Ewald $170,594 — double her lost wages — plus $100,000 for emotional distress, the Star Tribune (http://strib.mn/14f9Qoz ) reported.

U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson of St. Paul also ruled that Norway must pay $1,000 to Minnesota’s general fund for violating the state’s Human Rights Act.

Ewald worked at the Norwegian Consulate in Minnesota. In her lawsuit, Ewald said she thought the money for the two positions would be split evenly between her and a male employee.

“I hope this can help other women who still experience discrimination in the workplace,” Ewald, of Minneapolis, said of the ruling.

The judge rejected Norway’s contention that there were material differences in their responsibilities that required the consulate to pay the other worker more. A message left Thursday for Norway’s attorneys was not immediately returned.

Nelson said Ewald’s attorneys now should submit their legal fees, including a calculation for prejudgment interest.

Lead Ewald attorney Shelia Engelmeier said fees will come close to $2 million, as there were four lawyers and because of “the time we were forced to spend because Norway fought us at every juncture and refused to do the right thing.”

In the 12-day trial in April and May, Walter Mondale, the former Vice President and ex-head of the consulate, was caught in the middle as a representative of the Norwegian government, yet called to testify by Ewald’s lawyers.

Mondale found himself defending the initial lower pay that Ewald received for a job that he said was not comparable to her male counterpart’s. But he also testified that after Ewald learned of the disparity and protested, he and another consulate official urged Norway to rectify the problem.

Norway, which has had a diplomatic presence in Minnesota since 1906, is home to nearly 900,000 people of Norwegian descent.

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Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com

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