March 2nd, 2012

Although gender discrimination is illegal under both federal and Minnesota state law, it continues to impact the careers of both men and women in Minneapolis. Men and women of the same qualifications are sometimes treated differently when it comes to hiring, compensation, promotions and layoffs.

A Twin Cities woman recently filed suit against the Royal Norwegian Embassy and the honorary consul general in Minneapolis alleging that they did not address complaints that she was being paid much less than her male counterpart.

The woman worked at the Norwegian consulate in Minneapolis as a director of higher education and research. Her qualifications included fluent Norwegian and two masters’ degrees. Her job included promoting scientific brain research using Norway’s biological data system.

She said that a man who was hired at the same time as her and worked as her counterpart, but with a different job title, earned $40,000 more than her annually and had better medical benefits. When the woman learned these things she complained internally and to the embassy in Washington.

Her complaints were reportedly not well-received by the embassy or from the honorary consul general and when her contract expired this fall, it was not renewed.

It appears as though this case is going to be tried in federal court in St. Paul. Among things that will need to be determined are whether the two jobs really were quite similar in nature and whether her qualifications are similar to those of her male counterpart. If so, the Norwegian Embassy likely did break state and federal employment laws in its compensation practices. Salaries for the same job must be equitable between genders.

Source: Star Tribune, “Norwegian consulate sued over claim of unequal pay,” Dan Browning, Feb. 29, 2012.

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