Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Support NHPR's local journalism that brings clarity, context, and community!

Judge Declines SEA President's Request To Dismiss Harassment Suit

Courtesy of S.E.A.

A federal judge says a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against the president of one of the state’s largest unions can proceed.

The suit, brought by Maddisun Barrows, a former State Employees Association employee, accuses Richard Gulla of sexual harassment and gender discrimination, and alleges the SEA failed to stop his behavior. 

Gulla deniesthe accusations.

Barrows worked at the union between 2013 and 2017. During that time, Gulla “viewed her as a physical object,” according to Barrows' complaint.

She alleges there was a “general sentiment among staff that Gulla did not respect Ms. Barrows because she was a young female.”

Barrows alleges that Gulla, who was elected union president in 2014, made “so many sexually inappropriate jokes and references to every female person in the office, that it is impossible to identify all the specific instances.”

One specific example cited by Barrows in her complaint is Gulla’s habit of replying “woof” whenever she wished him a good morning.

Gulla told the court that he used “woof” to greet both men and women and that it had no sexual connotation. He says that when it was brought to his attention that people were uncomfortable with the dog barking noise, “he immediately stopped using the expression and has not used it for years.” 

Barrows was ultimately fired from the SEA, though the parties provided the court with two different versions of the events that led to her termination. 

Last week, a federal judge declined to dismiss Barrows’ complaint. A pre-trial conference is scheduled for later this month.

Lawyers for both Barrows and Gulla declined to comment on the suit.

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University. He can be reached at
Related Content

You make NHPR possible.

NHPR is nonprofit and independent. We rely on readers like you to support the local, national, and international coverage on this website. Your support makes this news available to everyone.

Give today. A monthly donation of $5 makes a real difference.