Indiana utility paying $1 million fine over hiring complaint

A major Indiana utility company has agreed to pay a $1 million fine in settling a federal complaint that it discriminated against some 1,500 female or black job applicants.

Northern Indiana Public Service Co. reached the deal with federal officials after a U.S. Department of Labor investigation found the utility discriminated against qualified women or black applicants for meter reading or service representative positions, The Times of northwest Indiana reported.

Under the agreement, African-American and female job applicants who were not hired in 2013 and 2014 can file to receive payments of at least $259 from the fine NIPSCO paid.

The Merrillville-based company also agreed to give priority to hiring 27 of those applicants as jobs become available over the next two years, NIPSCO spokesman Nick Meyer said.

The deal includes NIPSCO ending its use of a manpower test that was determined by the federal government to be discriminatory. Under the agreement, the company will rewrite its policies to ensure qualification standards are uniformly applied to all job applicants and train people involved in hiring on a neutral application of hiring criteria.

“We have previously taken steps to improve the training associated with the hiring and record retention process, and NIPSCO continues to lead diverse workforce development efforts externally,” Meyer said.

NIPSCO has about 820,000 natural gas customers and 470,000 electric customers across the northern third of Indiana, making it the state’s largest natural gas and second-largest electric utility.

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