Ericka Puglisi is a 33-year-old woman from the Atlantic City area who, hoping to supplement her income as a per diem nurse, walked into a popular Jersey Shore bar earlier this year in search of a waitressing job. But according to a lawsuit she’s filed, that job quickly turned into a nightmare.
Puglisi says she was hired in February to work at Tipsy Taco & Tequila Bar on Ventnor Avenue in Margate. Tipsy Taco is the third restaurant/bar concept in Margate from husband-and-wife team John “Johnny” and Giovanna “JoAnn” Liccio, who also operate Shucker’s and Johnny’s Cafe on the same block.
The problems began soon after she began working for the Liccios (seen here), claims Puglisi.
According to allegations contained in her lawsuit, filed in New Jersey’s Superior Court, John Liccio, a South Philadelphia native, repeatedly touched her shoulders and thighs, used terms like “sweetie,” “babe,” and “sexy” to refer to her, and offered her various sums of money in exchange for sex acts, starting with $150 for fellatio. (Neither the Liccios nor their attorney replied to multiple requests for comment.)
Once, Puglisi alleges, when she was bending over to look for something in her purse, Liccio put his crotch in her face and said she “better watch out being so close to me down there.”
When the local fire marshal arrived for an inspection, Puglisi claims that Liccio told her that the only reason the fire department was there was because she was so “sexy.”
Puglisi also alleges in the suit that Liccio required his female employees to allow customers to perform body shots — lick salt off the employee’s body, do a shot of tequila, and then suck a lime wedge out of her mouth. The bar advertised body shots for $20 to $100, the price determined by which woman you chose. Puglisi maintains that Liccio forced her to participate in body shots even after she says she refused.
According to the suit, male staffers “followed … Johnny’s lead” by groping, grabbing, and otherwise touching female employees, including Puglisi, while on the job. She claims that they regularly touched her breasts and buttocks, and that one male employee grabbed her hand and forcibly placed it on his penis.
By June, alleges the suit, Liccio’s wife became aware of some of Puglisi’s accusations against the husband. Puglisi says that the wife became abrasive and hostile toward her and that there was ultimately a big blowup when Puglisi’s mom showed up to confront the Liccios.
According to the suit, the mother introduced herself to Giovanna Liccio as the mother of “the one your husband solicited for sex.” John Liccio allegedly screamed that Puglisi “is a fucking liar.” Puglisi claims that she then told him, “Look me in my eyes and tell me you didn’t ask me for sex.” And then, alleges the lawsuit, John Liccio threatened to burn down their house. The cops never got involved, says Puglisi’s attorney Matt Luber, of New Jersey law firm McOmber & McOmber.
The suit accuses the Liccios of sexual discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation, and seeks unspecified damages.
“Our client showed great courage by coming forward,” says Luber. “As alleged in the complaint, the misogyny and sexual misconduct was systemic and not an isolated incident.”
Follow @VictorFiorillo on Twitter