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February 04. 2014 8:32PM

Fred Fuller sex harassment suit will stand, judge rules

Allegations that Fred Fuller made sexually-charged comments to his female employees, frequently hugged and flirted with them and practiced "sexual favoritism" support a former employee's complaint that she was sexually harassed at the home heating oil company, a federal judge ruled.

The ruling was part of U.S. District Court Judge Paul Barbadoro's Jan. 31 order rejecting Fred Fuller Oil Company Inc.'s claim that the sexual harassment former employee Beverly Mulcahey allegedly suffered was neither severe nor pervasive and her claim should not go forward.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed suit against Fred Fuller Oil Company Inc. in U.S. District Court in Concord in 2013 on behalf of Mulcahey and Nichole Wilkins.

Both women claimed Fred Fuller engaged in sexual harassment while they worked at Fuller Oil's main offices in Hudson. Mulcahey also claimed the company fired her in retaliation for Wilkins complaining about being harassed and for filing a complaint against Fuller with the New Hampshire Commission for Human Rights and the EEOC.

At this point in the proceedings, Barbadoro also rejected Fred Fuller Oil Company Inc.'s claim that Mulcahey and Wilkins did not have close enough a relationship to claim Mulcahey was fired in retaliation for Wilkins' actions.

The case is scheduled to go to jury trial Nov. 4.The case stems from allegations of misconduct in March 2011 on the part of Fuller. Wilkins said she resigned over the conduct.

Wilkins pressed criminal charges that resulted in Fuller's arrest April 19, 2012, on a misdemeanor count of forcible fondling. Fuller pleaded no contest on Nov. 14, 2012, to a reduced charge of simple assault.

The federal suit is the second brought against Fuller and his company since 2003 regarding sexual harassment of female employees. Fuller Oil paid a $780,000 settlement in July 2005 in response to complaints by five other women. Fuller admitted no wrongdoing in that case.

Fuller Oil also is the target of a state investigation into its home heating oil delivery practices and management of its prepaid home heating oil contracts. The investigation began last month when Fuller Oil failed to deliver oil to many customers during a bitter cold snap and customers could not contact the company because of a failed telephone system.



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