The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



Agency Says Manager Harassed and Fired Because of His Age

CLEVELAND – Ashland, Inc., an international chemical giant, and its subsidiary Valvoline, violated federal law when it fired a 52-year-old manager because of his age, according to a lawsuit filed today by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Michael Roach began working for Ashland in 1989, and most recently held the position of service center manager at Ashland’s Valvoline Instant Oil Change facility in Mansfield, Ohio, overseeing directly two stores and the management training for 11 stores. The EEOC investigation revealed that beginning in 2004, Roach’s direct supervisor began to address and refer to him as “Papa Roach” and “Old Man Roach.” Although Roach complained about the comments, the remarks continued and in fact spread among fellow and higher level managers. At age 52, Michael Roach was the oldest employee at both his stores. Valvoline fired Roach because of his age in October 2006.

Such alleged conduct violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which protects persons 40 years of age or older. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement.

The EEOC seeks to eliminate the discriminatory practices cited in the case and have Ashland compensate Roach for his monetary losses. In addition, the ADEA provides for liquidated damages (normally in an amount equal to a person’s monetary losses) in the case of a willful violation of the Act, as in this case.

“This litigation addresses the heart of the ADEA: that the value of older workers should be assessed on the basis of their true level of ability to perform their jobs, not on stereotypical beliefs based on age bias,” said EEOC Acting Regional Attorney Debra Lawrence.

According to company information, Kentucky-based Ashland Inc., a Fortune 500 company, is a diversified chemical company that provides innovative products, services and solutions to customers around the globe. Serving customers in more than 100 countries, it operates through five commercial units: Ashland Hercules Water Technologies, Ashland Performance Materials, Ashland Aqualon Functional Ingredients, Ashland Consumer Markets (Valvoline) and Ashland Distribution. Valvoline headquarters is in Covington, Ky.

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on race, color, gender (including sexual harassment and pregnancy), religion, national origin, age, disability and retaliation. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at

This page was last modified on February 25, 2009.

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