MERRILLVILLE -

Merrillville-based NIPSCO has agreed to pay a $1 million fine following a U.S. Department of Labor investigation. Our partners at The Times of Northwest Indiana report federal court records show NIPSCO discriminated against nearly 1,600 female and black job candidates about six years ago.

The publication says NIPSCO was found to have discriminated against the individuals for temporary meter-reader positions in Gary based on sex or race, as well as nearly 1,000 black applicants for customer service representative jobs in Merrillville based on race. In the settlement agreement, the Department of Labor says without the discrimination, NIPSCO would have hired nearly 30 female or black candidates for the jobs.

As a result of the settlement, African-American and female job applicants who were not hired in 2013 and 2014 will be able to file to receive payments of at least $259 from the fine paid by NIPSCO. The payments will cover back pay for the affected candidates, plus interest, according to The Times

"NIPSCO agreed to a monetary settlement, as well as a commitment to give priority hiring to 27 female and African American individuals who are qualified candidates for future available and comparable positions over the next two years," NIPSCO Director of Communications Nick Meyer said in a statement to the publication. "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."

You can read the full story from The Times of Northwest Indiana by clicking here.