Epsom woman files sexual harassment lawsuit against former employer
An Epsom woman has accused her former employer of sexual harassment, alleging that he once directed her to deliver an invoice by taping it to her breasts.
Stephanie Coulombe claims in her lawsuit against Michael Terry that the abuse was ongoing while she worked as an assistant at Al Terry Plumbing and Heating in Hooksett from Feb. 2009 to March 2010. According to the lawsuit, the harassment caused emotional distress but also physical discomfort that her doctor diagnosed as stress-induced heart palpitations.
“The sexual harassment and unwanted physical contact suffered at work caused (Coulombe) to suffer anxiety, emotional distress, crying, and humiliation, in addition to symptoms related to her heart,” according to the lawsuit, which was filed for Coulombe by her lawyer, Richard Lehmann.
Terry, who according to his company’s website joined the business in 1982 and is now the president, did not respond to a request for comment, instead having his lawyer contact the Monitor. Cheryl Enright declined to discuss the specifics of the case, saying only that Coulombe’s claims are “mere allegations” that Terry disputes.
Many of those allegations center on a romantic relationship Coulombe had with one of Terry’s business associates, according to Lehmann. In regards to the invoice incident, Terry allegedly advised Coulombe to deliver the bill to the man by telling him that he could touch her breasts after he paid. According to the lawsuit, he made that instruction on a Friday, then asked Coulombe on Monday if she had done what he wanted.
Coulombe has also accused Terry of:
∎ Asking her if she went to dinner near her boyfriend’s apartment so that the two could get drunk and then have sex in the elevator.
∎ Coming up behind her and rubbing her neck and shoulders while looking down the front of her shirt. When Coulombe protested, Terry allegedly “pushed her shoulders, hard, from behind and . . . said, ‘You like it.’ ”
∎ Following her around the office while asking if she and her boyfriend were having sex.
∎ Saying that Coulombe’s car was once towed because she was still in bed having sex. According to the lawsuit, Terry pestered her throughout that day, asking her if she was “getting any” and whether it was “worth it.”
Coulombe, who was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect shortly after her birth, visited her doctor while the harassment was ongoing, complaining of chest discomfort, according to the lawsuit.
“When she first started being subjected to the stress of sexual harassment she thought it was her condition coming back,” said Lehmann, who works for the Douglas, Leonard & Garvey law firm in Concord. “Her doctor said to her, ‘Nope. Physically, everything is fine.’ And eventually they concluded the physical symptoms she was feeling were caused by the stress she was feeling at work.”
According to the lawsuit, Coulombe’s doctor prescribed anti-anxiety medications and advised her to seek counseling.
Coulombe left her job in March 2010, and Lehmann said he filed a petition with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in November 2010. The EEOC found probable cause in the case in May, according to Lehmann, leading him to file this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Concord.
Coulombe sued for sexual harassment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress and assault and battery.
She is seeking damages, and while Lehmann declined to give a dollar amount he said Coulombe would like to see her medical costs covered. He said that Coulombe was able to find a job shortly after leaving the plumbing company but her new employer does not provide equal health insurance, a concern because of her preexisting condition.