Walter Mondale, a former Vice President who was Norway's honorary consul in Minnesota between 2008 and 2010, told a court in St Paul that he had written a strongly-worded letter to the Norwegian authorities asking them to increase the woman's salary.
Ellen Ewald, 56, is suing the Norwegian embassy in Washington DC for a reported $3 million for gender discrimination, arguing that a younger, less qualified male colleague at the consulate was paid much higher wages.
Ewald lived in Norway for twenty years before returning to the US and securing a job in 2008 at the Norwegian consulate in Minneapolis, according to Norwegian public broadcaster NRK.
Armed with two masters degrees and fluent Norwegian, she started work as the consulate’s director for higher education at the same time as her younger co-worker took up his role as business development director.
Ewald claims the consulate told her their jobs had equal billing. She was then astonished to learn that her colleague was earning $110,000 a year, while she was on a salary of $70,000 and had inferior health benefits.
“I had lived in Norway, had networks both in Norway and the United States; he had not been to Norway, and did not speak the language.
“I speak the language, so I was really quite surprised.”
Mondale told the court that although he thought the original $70,000 pay offer "was OK", he had sought a raise from the Norwegian foreign ministry after Ewald complained, sending a letter with "charged language" to the embassy.
However, he denied that the difference in salaries between Ewald and her younger male colleague, Anders Davidson, had ever been due to gender, or indeed that the two roles were comparable.
While Ewald was employed to foster greater educational ties between Minnesota and Norway, Davidson was focused on business ties.
Moreover, he added, Davidson had originally been offered $60,000 but had negotiated his wage up to $100,000 by arguing that he had been paid $108,000 at his previous job at 3M.
He said he had been unaware that Ewald had previously been paid $150,000.
A spokesman for Norway’s foreign ministry, Svein Michelsen, said last month that Ewald’s case was baseless, noting that a judge had already dismissed six of her eight charges.
“The best way to protect the legal rights of locally employed staff is to follow local regulations and to have decent working conditions and contracts, and the foreign ministry has that,” he told NRK.