Ordinarily, the annual Nobel Peace Prize Forum, being held this weekend at Augsburg College and the University of Minnesota, would mark a happy occasion for Ellen Ewald, an adviser to the event who has served on its executive committee.
But this year, it underscores a bitter employment dispute that Ewald
has going with Norway, home of the Nobel Peace Prize and a nation she
said is known for promoting equal treatment of women and other human rights.
Ewald filed suit in Hennepin County District Court against the Royal Norwegian Embassy and its honorary consul general in Minneapolis last summer after they refused to address her complaints that she was paid substantially less money and provided fewer benefits than a male counterpart.
The defendants quickly moved it to federal court in St. Paul.
Ewald, a Twin Cities native and U graduate, had lived in Norway for more than 20 years before returning to Minneapolis in October 2008 to take a job with her adopted nation's consulate as director of higher education and research.
She's fluent in Norwegian and has master's degrees from the University of Bergen in Norway and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Ewald's job was to help promote scientific brain research in the Midwest using Norway's rich "biobank," a kind of warehouse of biological data gathered through that nation's health-care system.
"This is really a gold mine for research," Ewald
said in an interview this week.
"It was my dream job."
According to her
lawsuit, the Norwegian Embassy
posted two "parallel" jobs in July 2008 that would work in concert.
One was the position Ewald
The other was innovation and business development officer.
said each job had similar requirements and both offered salaries capped at $70,000.
said that Gary Gandrud,, the honorary consul general and a partner in the Faegre and Benson law firm at the time, took her to lunch and to discuss her complaints.
In her lawsuit, Ewald
says that Gandrud urged her to notify Norway's ambassador that the situation was resolved, or someone "would likely have to go."
insisted that she
still deserves equal pay for equal work.
got angry," she
Ewald now works for Tysvar, a privately held consulting firm focused on emerging business opportunities in the green economy and health care.
She also serves on the Peace Initiative Committee for Norway House, and was recently elected to its board.
involved with the Oslo Center for Peace
and Human Rights, which was started by former Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik.
"I'm determined to bring this out in the open because Norway is this country that has so much to be proud of, they need to stand up for these values," Ewald