The handling of a workplace romance and a claim of discriminatory salary practices are at the center of an employment lawsuit against Norway's sovereign wealth fund.
The fund's former head of trading analytics, Elisabeth Bull Daae, has sued Norges Bank Investment Management. On the first day of hearings in Oslo's district court, her lawyer told the court that the fund's compliance, human resources and leadership team created a hostile environment, that Ms. Bull Daae felt bullied and that she was underpaid compared to male colleagues.
Norges Bank, which manages the fund, rejected the claims. The fund has sought to resolve the conflict for over a year and help Ms. Bull Daae, its lawyer, Jan Fougner, told the court. The bank said all the claims should be dismissed, according to court documents.
The case comes as Norway's sovereign wealth fund, built on the nation's oil and gas wealth, seeks to use its muscle as the world's biggest single owner of shares to take a stronger stance against companies that fail to live up to expectations on issues including pay gaps across race and gender.
The case also involves a romance with a colleague that resulted in Ms. Bull Daae swapping jobs for 18 months to reduce a conflict of interest, her lawyer, Sigurd Knudtzon, told the court. That precipitated a deterioration in the relationship with her employer, with Ms. Bull Daae feeling increasingly mistreated, her lawyer said.
"This case will show that within the organization of NBIM, the working environment is not good in all situations," Mr. Knudtzon said. Ms. Bull Daae, who holds a doctorate in mathematical modeling, has worked at the fund for about 19 years, reporting to three chief executive officers, including the current chief, Nicolai Tangen.
The fund has a gender-neutral system to benchmark salaries to ensure that they are fair, Mr. Fougner said.
"Those who have investment responsibilities, in other words those that make decisions related to investments with the associated risk that entails, earn more than those that have support roles such as analysis," he said.