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Norway Government Embarrassed by International Attention Over $2.1 Million Equal Pay Judgment

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The government of Norway is reeling from the recent media attention it has received over an equal pay discrimination suit recently decided in favor of plaintiff Ellen Ewald who was hired in 2008 by Norway’s embassy. Ewald’s initial elation at being called “a star” by ministry officials was soon diminished when she learned that she was being paid $30,000 less than a male colleague. And, despite attempts to resolve the situation she was ignored and “hurt,” she said.

Ewald was hired by the consulate with a salary of $70,000 and later discovered that a younger male employee, with less experience and without her 20 years of residency in Norway and fluency with the language, was not only hired at $30,000 more–$100,000 annually—but was receiving health care benefits, which she was not.

Fair? It certainly doesn’t seem so and, although her initial inquiries were virtually ignored, today Ewald is vindicated, and the government of Norway is embarrassed. Ewald won her case last year in a U.S. federal court in Minnesota (Note: my sister, Sheila Engelmeier, was one of her attorneys!)—a result that has, to date, cost an estimated NOK 35 million, which includes the Norwegian government’s legal bills.

Not only did the country ignore Ewald’s initial inquiries about the discrepancy in pay, but they also turned down an option for settlement which, according to Sheila, would had amounted to less than 10 percent of what they ended up paying.

Ouch! This from a country that is widely touted as being very supportive of pay equity.

Anne Kristin Lund, who leads the Norwegian ministry’s department for competence and resources, was quoted in Norwegian paper Daegens Næringsliv (DN) as saying: “this case is a reminder of how important it is to operate correctly in relation to labour law.”

We agree.

We also know, of course, that this type of pay inequity is not limited to other countries. We have the same issues right here in the United States. And we should be equally as embarrassed as this small country is.

What’s the situation in your organization? Are you confident that your pay practices are equitable for all? If not, it’s time to take a closer look at what you’re paying employees across all employment categories. Be inclusive!

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