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Published: Thursday, 8/15/2002

Ex-food chief at golf club is sued

The former food service manager at Highland Meadows Golf Club is accused in a lawsuit filed yesterday in Lucas County Common Pleas Court of sexually harassing nine women.

The women - eight food servers and an office worker - claim Jae Cha made suggestive and lewd comments to them and inappropriately touched them while they were working at the club in Sylvania. The lawsuit also alleges that the women were subjected to retaliation and treated differently from other employees after they complained about Mr. Cha to Randy Clark, the club's former general manager, and the board of directors.

Laura Metz, Talia Garber, Becky Mocniak, January Theodorou, Adrienne Albright, Tammi Kern, and Angela Adair, all of Toledo, and Deborah Mahlman of Holland and Jodie Bennett of Sylvania filed the complaint. They are seeking more than $25,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.

The Jamie Farr Kroger Classic, a women's professional golf tournament, is held annually at the club.

The lawsuit names Mr. Cha, Mr. Clark, and Highland Meadows as defendants.

The suit contends:

  • The harassment began Feb. 14 and continued almost daily through mid-July, causing “an intimidating, hostile, and offensive work environment.”

  • Mr. Cha told many of the employees that he “loved” them and some that they “looked like they could take good care of a man.”

  • Mr. Cha touched breasts, patted buttocks, hugged, pulled clothing, held hands of some plaintiffs; massaged and touched the neck and shoulders of all plaintiffs, and bit many of the women on their necks, backs, shoulders, and arms.

  • Mr. Cha threatened to fire the plaintiffs and gave raises to employees who did not complain about the alleged conduct.

  • The women, following the club's workplace harassment policy, complained to Mr. Clark and the board of directors, who took no action. Instead, they were subjected to new work rules that were not imposed on other employees and were denied raises.

    Mr. Clark and Mr. Cha recently left Highland Meadows and are now employed in similar positions at a golf club in Aurora, Ohio.

    Of the allegations, Mr. Clark said he would not comment without first contacting Highland Meadow officials.

    “I left the club to accept a better position. It had nothing to do with anything else - certainly nothing to with [the lawsuit],” he said

    Mr. Cha did not return a telephone call seeking comment.

    Samuel Hammons, president of the board of directors, could not be reached for comment.

    The women are represented by the law firm Barkan & Robon. James M. Tuschman, an attorney with the firm, said discussions were held with the club prior to last month's LPGA tournament to resolve the situation.

    “We were very concerned for these women and were concerned what effect it would have if we filed before the tournament. We felt it could hurt the tournament and hurt the community,” Mr. Tuschman said.

    Judd Silverman, tournament director, said he was unaware of the allegations. “If this type of thing was going on at the club, I would hope the board of directors of Highland Meadows would take appropriate action to determine if it was happening or not,” he said.

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