Ellen Ewald worked in Norway’s Minneapolis consulate. She sued the Norwegian government for employment discrimination case, alleging her employer paid her $30,000 less than it paid a man doing comparable work. A United States District Court found that the Norwegian government violated the federal Equal Pay Act and the Minnesota’s Human Rights Act, and ordered the Norwegian government to pay a steep award of damages and attorneys fees.
The Norwegian government was ordered to pay Ewald $170,000, representing double the amount of her lost wages, and $100,000 for emotional distress. The federal judge also ordered employer to pay Ewald and additional $2.1 million in legal fees. This was sought by Ewald to cover the more than 6,000 hours of work performed by her lawyers.
The Equal Pay Act prohibits workplace discrimination based on sex, providing that, “No employer . . . shall discriminate . . . between employees on the basis of sex by paying wages to employees . . . at a rate less than the rate at which he pays wages to employees of the opposite sex . . . for equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions.”
Minnesota’s Human Rights Act states that if an employer discharges or otherwise discriminates against a person with respect to hiring, tenure, compensation, terms, upgrading, conditions, facilities, or privileges of employment based on their sex, this constitutes an illegal unfair discriminatory practice.
The Court found that Ewald proved that the Norwegian government violated both laws because she showed that she was paid less than a male employee for equal work in jobs that required equal skill, effort, and responsibility and which were performed under similar working conditions. The Court also held that she was entitled to damages and attorney fees because under the Equal Pay Act, a plaintiff may recover lost wages, liquidated damages, and attorney’s fees and costs.
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