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Nichols Gas & Oil Settles EEOC Sexual Harassment Lawsuit for $150,000

Upstate NY Gas and Oil Company Owner Subjected Nine Women to Groping and Crude Sexual Language for More Than Four Years, Federal Agency Charged

BUFFALO, N.Y. - Nichols Gas & Oil, Inc., a former upstate New York fuel supply company, will pay nine women $150,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.

The EEOC's lawsuit, EEOC v. Nichols Gas & Oil, Inc. and Townsend Oil Corporation d/b/a Townsend Oil & Propane, 05-CV-6482 (CJS)(MWP), filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York in September 2005, charged that the company subjected nine female employees to sexual harassment from January 1999 through July 2003. Nichols Gas & Oil, located in Macedon, N.Y., in Wayne County near Rochester, was purchased by Townsend Oil Corporation, doing business as Townsend Oil & Propane in November 2005. In September 2007, Townsend was added to the lawsuit as a successor defendant.

According to the nine harassment victims, company owner Wayne Nichols groped their breasts and buttocks, made sexually explicit propositions and comments including requests for sexual intercourse, and other lewd remarks. Nichols routinely referred to female employees using sexually degrading terms and made offensive and graphic comments about sex acts and genitalia.

Townsend Oil Corporation purchased Nichols Gas & Oil on or about Nov. 30, 2005. EEOC filed an amended complaint naming Townsend as a successor defendant on Oct. 1, 2007. In a January 2010 decision, Judge Siragusa determined that Townsend was an "innocent purchaser because the alleged acts of discrimination arose prior to Townsend's purchase of Nichols Gas & Oil," but it would remain in the case as a successor defendant.

Sexual harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

Although Nichols Gas & Oil is no longer in existence, Nichols and his former company will be bound by a ten-year consent decree which, in addition to the $150,000 monetary relief, enjoins Nichols and any future businesses he may purchase or operate from engaging in further sexual harassment or retaliation. Further, Nichols must put mechanisms in place to protect any future employees. The decree has been submitted to Judge Siragusa for approval.

"These women were subjected to especially crude and unacceptable treatment," said EEOC New York District Director Kevin Berry. "The EEOC will not stop aggressively pursuing remedies for victims of sexual harassment in the workplace."

EEOC Trial Attorney Judith Biltekoff added, "The victims in this case have shown great courage and have waited a long time to right the wrongs perpetrated against them by their former employer. We are pleased that they will finally be compensated."

EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the commission is available on its website at