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Norway settles for $2m in US equal pay case

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Norway settles for $2m in US equal pay case
Ellen Ewald has received costs and damaged worth $1,958,000. Photo: Facebook
13:55 CEST+02:00
Norway has agreed to shell out $2m to a former US consular employee after backing down on a long-running gender discrimination case that MPs complain has damaged the country's reputation as a defender of women's rights.
The Norwegian government on Thursday agreed to pay Ellen Ewald $1,958,000, 83 percent of what US District Judge Susan Nelson had requested, in a settlement in a case that has rolled on since the start of 2014. 
 
“I'm incredibly relieved and happy. I cannot believe that it's true,” Ewald told Norway's Dagens Næringsliv newspaper. 
 
Ewald, 57, complained after discovering that she was being paid $30,000 less than a younger male colleague in a comparable role, even though she was older, more experienced, had more qualifications, and unlike him, spoke fluent Norwegian. 
 
After her contract was not renewed, she took the embassy in Washington DC to court. 
 
Ingjerd Schou, an MP for the Conservative Party, on Friday said she believed the law suit had hurt Norway. 
 
“Norway looked bad,” she told the Minnesota Star Tribune. “During all these years that this was going on, it has not been a good reputation for Norway and the Norwegian government.”
 
“I think the Ministry of Foreign Affairs did discriminate,” she added. “They were supposed to have the same salary and they didn't.” 
 
During the trial Walter Mondale, who headed the consulate when Ewald was hired, told the court that he had unsuccessfully lobbied the embassy to end what he called an “unjust and embarrassing” difference between the two staff. 
 
Ellen is to receive $89,935 for alleged loss of income and $30,000 for the stress she has endured over the case, with the rest of the payout going to her lawyers. 
 
Frode Overland Andersen, a spokesman for Norway's foreign ministry, said that Norway's government was happy that the court had dismissed many of Ewald's most serious allegations. 
 
“Ewald made serious charges of harassment and gender discrimination,” he said. “We are pleased that the court dismissed Ewald's allegations of harassment and other forms of improper behaviour, and stated that the embassy acted in good faith when setting pay.” 
 
By settling the case now, Norway has escaped the even higher court costs it would have faced if the case had gone to the appeal court. 
 
Ewald lived in Norway for 20 years with her Norwegian husband, the technology entrepreneur Terje Mikalsen, who chaired three companies before moving to the United States.
 
She has two masters degrees and speaks fluent Norwegian. Since leaving her job at the consulate in 2011, she has been a partner  in a company advising Norwegian companies on doing business in the US. 
 
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