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Former employee sues major national hospital collections firm, The HMC Group, and its owners and top sales executive for sexual assault, harassment, and retaliation

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Contact: Subodh Chandra

216.578.1700 (o)

Former employee sues major national hospital collections firm, The HMC Group, and its owners and top sales executive for sexual assault, harassment, and retaliation

Complaint alleges employer retaliated an assistant account manager by firing her because she complained about sexual assault and harassment by sales executive

CLEVELAND, OHIO - Today, Tina Barcklay, a former assistant account manager at The HMC Group, filed a civil lawsuit against The HMC Group, sales executive John Prologo, and co-owners and co-presidents James and Steven Scharfeld. Mrs. Barcklay, a married mother of two, alleges in the Complaint that John Prologo perpetrated a campaign of sexual harassment that culminated in sexual assault. She further alleges that the defendants retaliated against her for complaining about his misconduct, including by terminating her employment.

The Complaint alleges that Prologo's harassment included the following:

  • Grabbing her hand and trying to force her to touch his penis during a car ride from a work event;
  • Repeatedly asking her what color underwear she was wearing;
  • Requesting "phone sex" coupled with veiled threats that she might have to do what he wanted because he was a partial owner of the company
  • Showing her pornography on his computer and asking her to watch with him;
  • Discussing his sexual conquests in the office and complaining that he was not "getting any" while his fiancée recovered from childbirth;
  • Asking her to come to his house to have sex with him while his fiancée was away for the evening at a casino;
  • Asking her to "bend over a chair" in his office and if she would watch him have sex with someone in his office;
  • On two occasions, masturbating and fondling himself in her presence and asking if she thought his penis was big;
  • On one of those two occasions, attacking her as she tried to leave his office in disgust, grabbing her by the hair, blocking her exit, pressing up against her, and asking her to touch his penis.

The Complaint alleges that Mrs. Barcklay repeatedly reported Prologo's harassment to her immediate supervisor, Kim Sikora, who told Mrs. Barcklay that the Scharfelds would never do anything to Prologo because he made them too much money. The Complaint continues that after Prologo physically assaulted Mrs. Barcklay, she reported his campaign of harassment to co-president James Scharfeld, who likewise did nothing to help her.

The Complaint goes on to state that Mrs. Barcklay took medical leave to try to cope with the anxiety caused by Prologo's sexual harassment but that when she returned, she was not reinstated to her former duties. The Complaint alleges that when she returned from leave, co-president Steven Scharfeld screamed at her for requesting to leave early to attend a counseling appointment (noting during his tirade that he was angry that she had retained counsel) and that shortly thereafter, he terminated her, allegedly for calling off work with a dental emergency. Before her termination, Mrs. Barcklay had been with The HMC Group for nearly 15 years.

Mrs. Barcklay's complaint states claims for sexual harassment, retaliation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent retention and supervision, assault and battery, civil liability for criminal conduct, and loss of consortium on behalf of her husband.

The HMC Group is headquartered in Westlake and specializes in collecting delinquent accounts receivable for a variety of creditors. It also handles so-called "early out" billing-self-payments by patients-for more than 40 hospitals nationwide. Its local customers include the Cleveland Clinic, Akron General Hospital, Robinson Memorial Hospital, and St. Vincent Charity Hospital. The company has approximately 85 employees and does business in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Subodh Chandra, the Barcklays' lead counsel, said, "Caveman conduct is unacceptable in 2014. Tina Barcklay should not have been forced to choose between silently enduring John Prologo's sexual harassment and assault or risk losing her job. The HMC Group is a major healthcare collections player and has important relationships with some of this area's most respected hospitals. The HMC Group, and its owners James and Steven Scharfeld, chose profits over people when it chose to indulge the misconduct of its top sales executive."

The suit, captioned Barcklay, et al. v. Head Mercantile Co., Inc. d/b/a The HMC Group, et al., Case No. CV 14 829928, was filed in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas and is assigned to Judge Peter J. Corrigan. Chandra and Ashlie Case Sletvold of The Chandra Law Firm, LLC and Ronald Frederick of Frederick & Berler represent the Barcklays.

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