As reported yesterday in the Sentinel of Edison, Fords and Metuchen, the former store manager of the Muscle Maker Grill on Route 1 in Edison has filed a lawsuit against her former boss. Highland Park resident, Robyn DeCicco is claiming she was fired after blowing the whistle on her ex-boss’s alleged racist practices.
DeCicco’s attorney, Alan Genitempo of Nutley-based Piro, Zinna, Cifelli, Paris & Genitempo, “We believe other former employees will also come forward about, let’s say, the owner’s philosophies.”
The lawsuit contends that John Marques, owner of the Edison restaurant and twelve other locations, told her to throw away any applications from black applicants. The lawsuit states, “Defendant Marques did not want to hire African-American workers because he believed them to be ‘stupid.’”
While DeCicco worked for the store, from January 2011 to early December 2012, she reported receiving about five applications a week from African-American candidates.
In addition, DeCicco alleges in the lawsuit, that she was instructed by Marques to manipulate the work hours of cooks at the restaurant “on the basis that it was justified because the cooks were ‘illegals.’ She refused to do this according to the lawsuit.
Rod Silva, the founder of Muscle Maker Grill in the Colonia section of Woodbridge in 1995, said in a written statement, that the company is investigating the allegations.
“Mr. Marques’ former employee’s charge of discrimination would appear, at first blush, to fly against some other facts that I know about Mr. Marques, namely that Mr. Marques has an African-American partner and many other loyal, hard-working African-American employees,” wrote Silva, adding that Muscle Maker Grill is an equal-opportunity employer that does not condone discrimination.
DeCicco claims in the lawsuit that when she complained to corporate-level superiors in November 2012 about Marques’ alleged illegal practices, she was told that no action would be taken against her boss, because his ownership of thirteen stores brought the corporation too much money to take any recourse against him.
Soon thereafter, DeCicco claims, she lost her job. The lawsuit does not state whether DeCicco was given a reason for her firing and is seeking retroactive and current pay with interest, as well as compensation for “emotional pain and suffering, mental anguish, distress, humiliation and loss of reputation.”
Silva defended the Muscle Maker Grill because his parents are Brazilian immigrants, and that he has “personally felt the pain of racism, growing up in Newark and Edison, and during my professional career.” He continued to state that when starting the company, his goal was to afford those “of all races and creeds with access to the American dream.”
He also stated that the “franchise system is comprised of countless Muscle Maker Grill franchises including African-Americans, and their employees, including African-Americans, who have nothing to do with the events that have transpired in Edison. The livelihood of these people depends on earning your continued patronage each and every day.”
Marques could not be reached for comment on this story.
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