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News Release

Subsidiary of Ashland Inc., leading chemical company, settles charges of hiring discrimination with US Labor Department

Federal contractor, Aqualon Company, to pay 660 African-American applicants

RICHMOND, Va. – A subsidiary of one of the world’s leading specialty chemical companies has entered into a conciliation agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs to resolve allegations of race-based hiring discrimination.

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.

“OFCCP is committed to ensuring that federal contractors and subcontractors conduct hiring, promotions, terminations and compensation fairly, without respect to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability or protected veteran status,” said OFCCP Director Patricia Shiu. “We strongly encourage employers to take proactive steps to come into compliance with the law to prevent workplace discrimination.”

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. For more information, visit

OFCCP recently launched the Class Member Locator. The purpose of the CML is to identify applicants and/or workers who have been impacted by OFCCP’s compliance evaluations and complaint investigations and who may be entitled to a portion of monetary relief and/or consideration for job placement. If you are an African American who applied for work as a transition operator at Ashland, Inc.’s Aqualon Company facility in Hopewell, Virginia, between Oct. 1, 2011, and Sept. 30, 2012, but you were not hired, please visit our website at:, where you can also find information about other recent OFCCP settlements, or call 877-716-9783.

Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs
June 7, 2016
Release Number
Media Contact: Joanna Hawkins
Media Contact: Leni Fortson