Ex-employees of Fred Fuller get millions in settlements from sex-harassment lawsuit

  • This Nov. 24, 2014, photo shows Fred Fuller, left, arriving at bankruptcy court in Manchester. Don Himsel—Nashua Telegraph

Monitor staff
Published: 5/11/2016 11:08:16 PM

Two former employees of Fred Fuller have been awarded $2.7 million and $1 million in a lawsuit that alleged the owner of the now-bankrupt oil company harassed them with “offensive, unwelcome, sexual conduct” in the office.

The case had previously made it to the state Supreme Court because of uncertainty whether state law against workplace discrimination could apply to individual employees as well as the company as a whole. The court ruled in February that individual employees, including the owner, could be held liable.

The financial settlement was revealed in documents in U.S. District Court in Concord concerning a civil suit filed by the two, Nicole Wilkins and Beverly Mulcahey. Further details of the settlement were sealed, and calls to attorneys on both sides were not returned by deadline.

The settlement came against Fuller personally. A portion of the lawsuit against the now-bankrupt Fred Fuller Oil & Propane Co. was dismissed in two orders, signed by Judge Paul Barbadoro on April 26 and May 6.

The suit dates to June 2013, when the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Fuller, whose oil company was still in operation, on behalf of Wilkins and Mulcahey. That case was set to go before a jury on Nov. 12, 2014, but the company declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Nov. 11, following almost a year of turmoil about its difficulty meeting deliveries of heating oil.

Fred Fuller Oil Co. was sold a week later to Rymes Oil for $10 million, and Barbadoro later “statistically closed” the women’s lawsuit, a move that ended the proceeding but did not dismiss the charge. In January 2015, the pair filed to restart the harassment case; disagreement about whether they could proceed against Fuller personally as well as the company took the issue to the state Supreme Court.

According to court documents from the EEOC lawsuit, Wilkins claims that Fuller sexually harassed her from at least 2001 through 2006, while she was employed at the company’s Hudson headquarters.

Wilkins claimed Fuller touched her breasts, used sexually inappropriate language and gestures, and made demands for sexual favors in what amounted to a hostile work environment. The suit details at least a dozen acts it attributes to Fuller, including asking Wilkins to strip at his son’s bachelor party and telling her to wear low-cut shirts, according to court documents.

Wilkins quit her job in July 2011. The EEOC lawsuit claimed Fuller created a hostile environment for Mulcahey, a close friend of Wilkins, by grabbing his crotch in front of her, telling her she was showing the right, amount of cleavage and making sexually suggestive comments about her and Wilkins.

Mulcahey was fired less than a month after Wilkins told Fuller she would file a discrimination charge, according to court documents.

According to court documents released May 10, the settlement pays Wilkins $2.7 million and pays Mulcahey $1.02 million.

The EEOC had previously sued Fred Fuller Oil Co. on behalf of five other women. The company paid $780,000 in 2005 to settle that suit.

In late 2012, Fuller, 66, was found guilty of simple assault in part of a plea deal in which prosecutors dropped misdemeanor sexual assault charges involving a different case, and he received a 90-day suspended jail sentence.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek)

David Brooks bio photo

David Brooks is a reporter and the writer of the sci/tech column Granite Geek and blog granitegeek.org, as well as moderator of Science Cafe Concord events. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in mathematics he became a newspaperman, working in Virginia and Tennessee before spending 28 years at the Nashua Telegraph . He joined the Monitor in 2015.

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