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Northeast Ohio car dealership owner sexually harassed two employees, lawsuit claims

September 19, 2018

Northeast Ohio car dealership owner sexually harassed two employees, lawsuit claims

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Two women have accused the owner of a pair of Northeast Ohio car dealerships of sexually harassing them for years and retaliating against them when they rejected his advances, according to a lawsuit.

Evan Fineberg, owner of Adventure Subaru in Painesville and Adventure Chrysler Dodge Jeep in Willoughby, sent lewd text messages to a 20-year-old receptionist where he described his genitals and asked her to watch him masturbate, and openly commented about a saleswoman’s breasts in front of other employees, according to the complaint filed Monday in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court.

One of the women quit after the dealership cut her hours, and the other was fired, the complaint says.

The lawsuit accuses Fineberg and the dealership’s parent company, FM Dealership, of creating a hostile work environment, retaliation and sexual harassment. It also claims that FM management failed to act in response to complaints about Fineberg’s behavior. 

The complaint was filed early Monday. Fineberg walked into the Willoughby police department at 10 a.m. and filed a police report accusing one of the women of stealing money from him more than a year ago, according to records.

The women and their attorney, Peter Mapley, then filed an amended complaint later Monday that called Fineberg’s report an attempt to retaliate against her and intimidate more women from coming forward.

“Our clients will not be bullied into silence,” Mapley said.

Fineberg’s attorney, Larry Zukerman, said excerpts from text messages contained in the complaint were “cherry-picked,” and said that he and Fineberg look forward to all of the evidence coming out.

“There are two sides to every story,” Zukerman said. “This was an attempt to extort my client. We refused to pay a ransom. These ladies are using the legal system as a means to seek a pay day.”

The receptionist, who lives in Lakewood, was hired at Adventure Subaru in 2015 when she was 20 years old, and hoped to springboard her career in the automotive industry, the complaint says. Fineberg promised to show her the ropes of the industry as he began his campaign of sexual harassment, the suit says.

Fineberg would sit behind her while she was at the desk and watch her, and call her extension and asked her to flash him, the complaint says.

He sent the woman “creepy, grossly inappropriate” text messages over the course of two years in which he said he wanted to have sex with her in his office and described the length of his tongue and the color of his pubic hair, according to the complaint. 

The woman rebuffed all of Fineberg’s advances and, in early 2017, her hours at the dealership were cutback, the suit says. In March 2017, the suit claims Fineberg called the woman into his office and demanded she get on her knees and perform oral sex on him. She refused, the suit says.

The woman, who at that point was 21 years old and “repulsed, scared and confused,” quit shortly after that, the suit says.

On Saturday, two days before the complaint was filed, the woman received a letter from the dealership that said she needed to return the car that she leased because of a change in her insurance policy. That change was approved by the dealership two weeks earlier, the suit says. If she didn’t hand over the car, the letter said, the dealership would file a lawsuit, according to the complaint. 

A Willoughby police report that Fineberg filed on Monday against the woman only says he walked into the police station lobby and “wanted to speak to someone about theft of money.” 

Mapley told cleveland.com that Willoughby police said Fineberg accused the woman of using his bank account to pay a $250 credit card bill. He called the allegation false and said he and the woman would go to the station to give a voluntary statement Tuesday afternoon.

Fineberg’s harassment of the second woman, who was in her mid-20s began shortly after she was hired as a saleswoman at Adventure Chrysler Jeep Dodge in May 2017, the complaint says. 

She reported to management that Fineberg approached her on the sales floor and stared at her crotch as he spoke to her, the complaint said. A human resources investigation substantiated multiple complaints against Fineberg, the complaint says.

There was no disciplinary action taken and, when the woman complained that November about Fineberg making comments about her breasts, management told her to avoid being alone with Fineberg, the complaint says.

The woman was fired earlier this year after she took three days of vacation, the complaint said. Adventure management claimed the days had not been approved, but the lawsuit said they had.

To comment on this story, please visit Wednesday’s crime and courts comments page.

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