By Amanda Gambill
A University of Tennessee coed testified in U.S. District Court here Tuesday that she had sexual contact with her 38-year-old supervisor at the Finish Line store in Cool Springs Galleria regularly after she came to work as a 16-year-old sales associate in 2009.
Represented by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, she and at least two other former female employees are seeking sexual harassment damages from Finish Line, claiming pain and suffering, humiliation, and emotional distress from the ongoing activities of the former store manager
The lead plaintiff, now 20, told a jury of five men and three women that a sexual relationship existed for several months in 2009 with her general manager, Gallien Fulton III. She said that they had sex multiple times a week, both in and outside the store, including in his car, in hotels, at his residence, and in the stock room office of the Finish Line store.
The Tennessean does not name rape victims.
The victim said that she has contracted Human Papillomavirus from the relationship that lasted from April 2009 to October 2009. She testified that she “became very depressed and suicidal” in October 2009 to which her parents responded by placing her in psychiatric care at Hermitage Medical Center for two months and later at the psychiatric hospital in Vanderbilt.
“I learned the power of someone a lot older than you,” she said. “I realize now how vulnerable I was to being brainwashed.”
The other two female former employees, Ashley Hopmayor and Miranda Watson, recounted their experiences with Fulton in 2009. Hopmayor, a senior at the University of Alabama, relayed details of Fulton poking and hugging her when she was 18. She said she resigned from Finish Line because she found her job “unbearable.”
Watson, a junior at Columbia State in Franklin, Tenn., described how he would touch her upper thighs, lower back and massage her shoulders when she was a 16- year-old employee. She said her hours were cut significantly, to the point that she was not assigned hours at all after she told him to stop touching her. The EEOC is seeking damages on her behalf for loss of wages.
Fulton, who is now in his early 40s and father of three children by three different women, has already been convicted of statutory rape of the 16-year-old plaintiff, and is currently serving six years probation.
Finish Line lawyers said that damages to the women “are simply not there,” that all three have moved on, gotten jobs and good grades.
They also said “the company never had a chance to correct the situation,” because nobody reported the transgressions to them until alerted by police. And then the company suspended the manager, fired him and prosecuted him.
Amanda Gambill is with the Seigenthaler News Service — MTSU. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.