BURKE, Va. (FOX 5 DC) - In Fairfax County, a lawsuit reveals disturbing details of an alleged assault at Villa Bella in Burke, Virginia.
According to court documents, the general manager of the Italian restaurant, Benny Genuardi, made “unwanted and unwelcome sexual comments” to 20-year-old Rue Choga on the job.
The complaint states Genuardi began “using his power and position to abuse her” right when she started as a server in July 2020. That is allegedly why she quit after one month.
Three other women share similar complaints and experiences as Choga. Two submitted affidavits and a third may also file a lawsuit after multiple instances of inappropriate behavior.
“I knew people that have experiences similar to me so I was like and if I’m confident enough to stand up and say something – I feel like they’ll feel confident enough too since nothing's been done about it,” said Choga.
The lawsuit claims Genuardi would ask Choga about her sex life. He allegedly also used a Villa Bella menu to slap her buttocks.
The complaint goes on to explain how the general manager would “use his key to access the women’s restroom while Ms. Choga was changing so that he could see her in various stages of undress.”
“It shouldn’t be a normal thing where people just say that’s just his personality because that isn’t normal. It shouldn’t be especially someone in a management position,” said Choga.
Court documents share the final straw for Choga is when “Mr. Genuardi would come up behind Ms. Choga, wrap his arms around her, and insert his finger into her belly button.”
“I completely lost my train of thought. At like two tables, I didn’t even put in their orders and he ended up having to give it to them for free because my mind was like ‘what just happened?!’ I literally just wanted to take off my stuff and leave and then after that day I left – I quit. I was like I can’t do this anymore,” said Choga.
FOX 5 reporter Sierra Fox stopped by Villa Bella to speak with Genuardi. She questioned him about the claims and he denied they were true.
The owner of the restaurant, Julia Amato, sent FOX 5 this statement:
“Villa Bella is a small family restaurant that has served our community and our area in the best way possible. We do have a strict sexual harassment policy in place that we abide by. We do not tolerate any harassment of any kind in our workplace.”
The defendants, owner of Villa Bella, Julia Amato, and general manager, Benny Genuardi, have 21 days to respond to the complaint.
As for the alleged victim in this lawsuit, she is seeking claims of $250,000 in damages due to the emotional distress she is experiencing from the incidents.
Choga’s attorney, Broderick Dunn, said it is hard to put a dollar amount on what his client is going through.
“This kind of behavior is not appropriate in the workplace,” said Dunn.
He adds Choga did complain to management about what happened and unfortunately, it worked against her.
“Her hours were cut and alternatively, she was only scheduled to work with the man she’s alleging did these behaviors,” said Dunn.
Choga did not file a report with police. Dunn said it would be difficult for a prosecutor to prosecute a sex crime with no witnesses or physical evidence.
However, it is important to note, there are other women who have come forward claiming similar experiences with Genuardi at Villa Bella.
Stay with FOX 5 for updates.