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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Hudson-based Fred Fuller Oil facing lawsuit charging owner with sexual harassment

CONCORD – Hudson-based Fred Fuller Oil Co. is being sued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which charges that the company’s owner, Fred Fuller, violated federal law by sexually harassing two female employees and firing one of them.

The lawsuit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Concord, asks the court to order the company to pay the women, Nichole Wilkins and Beverly Mulcahey, for lost wages as well as punitive damages and for “pain, suffering and humiliation,” according to court records. ...

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CONCORD – Hudson-based Fred Fuller Oil Co. is being sued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which charges that the company’s owner, Fred Fuller, violated federal law by sexually harassing two female employees and firing one of them.

The lawsuit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Concord, asks the court to order the company to pay the women, Nichole Wilkins and Beverly Mulcahey, for lost wages as well as punitive damages and for “pain, suffering and humiliation,” according to court records.

It’s the second time the EEOC has sued Fred Fuller Oil; the first was on behalf of five other women.

The company paid $780,000 in 2005 to settle a similar suit filed two years earlier.

“The commission characterized Fred Fuller as a ‘serial sexual harasser’ in its first lawsuit,” EEOC attorney Markus Penzel said in a statement.

“Unfortunately, that still seems to be true.”

Efforts to get a message to Fuller for comment through his company Friday evening were unsuccessful.

The latest suit charges the company, through Fuller himself, engaged in “unlawful employment practices” since at least 2001 and that since 2006, Fuller sexually harassed Wilkins.

Wilkins worked at the company’s Hudson headquarters and was subject to Fuller touching her breasts, other unwanted touching, sexually inappropriate language and gestures, demands for sexual favors and more 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 after Fuller twice grabbed and squeezed her breasts from behind while pinning her against her desk, according to a release from the EEOC.

The lawsuit also alleges Fuller created a hostile environment for Mulcahey, a close friend of Wilkins’ who was also harassed.

The suit alleges Fuller fired Mulcahey less than a month after Wilkins told him she would file a discrimination charge in October 2011, according to court documents.

The suit alleges that Fuller also harassed Mulcahey 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, according to court documents.

The suit charges Fuller with firing Mulcahey in retaliation for Wilkins’ intention to file a discrimination suit because he knew the two women are friends, according to court documents.

The EEOC suit also asks the court to order treatment and counseling for Fuller, as well as the adoption of “strong policies and procedures” to prevent harassment of female workers at the business in the future, according to court documents.

“Although the first settlement seems to have given Fuller pause, the allegations in this latest complaint confirm that Fuller did not learn anything from the large payment and the training that was required,” said Elizabeth Grossman, an EEOC attorney.

“This agency will continue to prosecute Fred Fuller’s company until he gets the message and no woman need fear working for him.”

Fuller, 64, was found guilty of simple assault in November as part of a plea deal in which prosecutors dropped misdemeanor sexual assault charges, and he received a 90-day suspended jail sentence.

Fuller was arrested in April 2012 after turning himself in to police.

In addition to the $780,000 payment from the 2003 suit, the settlement required Fuller to hire an independent agent to investigate future sexual harassment claims, to undergo sensitivity training sessions and to revise his company’s sexual harassment policies, according to an EEOC trial attorney.

Joseph G. Cote can be reached at 594-6415 or jcote@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Cote on Twitter (@Telegraph_JoeC).