$175,000 in Back Pay to be Paid by Company that Failed to Provide Equal Employment Opportunities to African American Applicants

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Aqualon Company, a subsidiary of global leader Ashland Inc., entered into the agreement after OFCCP determined that – from Oct. 1, 2011, through Sept. 30, 2012 – Aqualon failed to provide equal employment opportunities to 660 African Americans in the Richmond metropolitan area who applied for entry-level transition operator positions at the company’s facility in Hopewell.

OFCCP found that the company’s action violated Executive Order 11246, which prohibits federal contractors from discriminating based on race or color in their employment practices. Ashland has multiple federal contracts worth more than $37 million with the U.S. Department of Navy, the U.S. Department of Army and other federal agencies.

In its scheduled compliance evaluation, OFCCP found Aqualon used a discriminatory test as part of its selection process that adversely affected African-American 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 has not admitted liability, will pay $175,000 in back pay and interest to the African-American applicants. Aqualon also agreed to hire four of the African-American applicants. Additionally, it has agreed to discontinue use of the test in question for its entry-level positions, and to revise its hiring and recordkeeping practices to comply with Executive Order 11246 and equal employment regulations applicable to federal contractors. The agreement resolves all violations.

Aqualon’s parent company is based in Covington, Kentucky. Ashland is a global leader in production of cellulose ethers and synthetic polymers. It has more than 11,000 employees worldwide that serve customers in more than 100 countries with 36 manufacturing sites in North America and additional locations in Asia, Europe and South America.

In addition to Executive Order 11246, OFCCP enforces Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974. Collectively, these laws make it illegal for contractors and subcontractors doing business with the federal government to discriminate in employment because of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability or status as a protected veteran. In addition, contractors and subcontractors are prohibited from discharging or discriminating against applicants or employees because they inquire about, discuss, or disclose their compensation or that of others, subject to certain limitations.

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