Ashland Inc. subsidiary settles racial discrimination case

A Virginia-based subsidiary of Ashland Inc. has agreed to pay $175,000 plus interest to settle a federal hiring discrimination complaint, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Labor.

The Aqualon Co., a subsidiary of Ashland Inc., entered into the agreement after federal investigators determined that from Oct. 1, 2011, through Sept. 30, 2012, Aqualon failed to provide equal employment opportunities to 660 black people in the Richmond, Va., area who applied for entry-level transition operator positions at the company’s plant in Hopewell.

It is illegal for federal contractors to discriminate based on race or color; according to the news release, Ashland has more than $37 million in federal contracts with the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Army and other federal agencies.

According to the news release, Aqualon used a discriminatory test as part of its hiring process that adversely affected black applicants. The test was not job-related and did not meet the requirements of the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures.

Under the terms of the agreement, the company, which did not admit liability, will pay $175,000 in back pay and interest to the black applicants. Aqualon also agreed to hire four of the applicants and to stop using the test.

Ashland Inc. legal counsel Colleen Lewis released a statement saying Aqualon agreed to the settlement to resolve a “costly three-year-old audit” and disputes the Department of Labor’s findings of hiring discrimination. Aqualon already has hired the four applicants who had previously applied, and no addition hiring is required, she said.

“The company is pleased to conclude this matter and is committed to being an equal employment opportunity employer that values diversity and inclusion,” Lewis said in a statement.