Mondale speaks in wage discrepancy suit

Published 3:46 pm Saturday, April 26, 2014

ST. PAUL — Former Vice President Walter Mondale has defended his decision to pay a woman less than a man at the Norwegian Consulate in Minnesota, saying the wage difference was not due to gender.

Walter Mondale

Walter Mondale

Mondale, the honorary consul general from 2008 to 2010, made the comments Thursday in U.S. District Court in St. Paul, where he was testifying in a gender discrimination lawsuit. Ellen Ewald, 55, who earned $30,000 less than a man at the consulate, is suing the country of Norway for $1.5 million and attorneys’ fees.

Mondale, a former U.S. senator, vice president and ambassador to Japan, developed a reputation as an advocate of gender equality, picking Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate in his 1984 presidential bid.

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Mondale testified Ewald’s wage discrepancy was because the jobs weren’t comparable. Yet, Mondale had co-written a letter to the Norwegian ambassador to try to get Ewald a raise.

Ewald received an annual salary of $70,000 when she worked for the consulate from 2009 to 2011, and Anders Davidson was hired at the same time at $100,000 yearly. Ewald was responsible for strengthening educational ties between Norway and Minnesota; Anderson was hired to develop better business relationships.

Ewald’s three-year position wasn’t renewed in 2011.

Mondale testified that Ewald was the “perfect” hire for her post.

He said Davidson was originally offered $60,000, which Mondale felt was low. After learning Davidson made more at his prior job, Mondale and a hiring committee approved a salary of $100,000. Mondale said Thursday that he didn’t know that Ewald had earned $150,000 in her previous job.

Mondale testified that after he learned of Ewald’s unhappiness over the pay difference, he co-signed a letter seeking a raise for her. The letter called the pay difference “unjust and embarrassing.”

Outside the courtroom, Mondale was asked whether his testimony that Ewald’s pay was fair contradicted the content of his letter. He said the letter contained “charged language,” meant to get Norwegian authorities’ attention.

“We were trying to get a pay adjustment,” Mondale said, adding that he thought Ewald’s original pay offer “was OK.”

Ewald has said she was told she’d receive the same pay as Davidson, but an attorney for Norway said equal pay wasn’t promised.