An Ambridge tattoo and piercing artist is suing a former apprentice after he says she falsely claimed in a Facebook post that he coerced her into sexual activity when she worked for him.
PITTSBURGH – A Beaver County tattoo and piercing artist is suing a former apprentice in federal court on several counts, including defamation and invasion of privacy, after she claimed in Facebook posts that he coerced her into unwanted sexual activity.
Zach Watson, an Ambridge resident who operates Genisys Body Arts and Z. Watson Piercing on Broad Street in Sewickley, filed the lawsuit on Monday in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh against Allyx Foster, who now lives in Bismarck, N.D.
Watson denies Foster’s allegations, but acknowledges having consensual sex with her.
Besides defamation and invasion of privacy, Watson alleges that Foster’s accusations leveled in a June 19 Facebook post have caused him to suffer “severe and serious emotional distress,” and hurt his business, which has lost clients.
Watson is asking for the court to issue a permanent injunction against Foster prohibiting her from spreading similar “false information,” maintaining the social media posts she has already made about him and harassing or contacting him.
In the lawsuit, Watson seeks in excess of $75,000 in damages for each of seven counts and unspecified damages to accompany the permanent injunction.
The suit was prompted by Foster’s lengthy initial Facebook post in which she called Watson “a con artist, a master manipulator, an abuser, and a predator.” The two discussed her becoming an apprentice in October 2018, she said, when Watson was working at Up in Arms in Moon Township.
After visiting Watson and staying at his home with his family for a week, Foster said she agreed to take the job and left Oregon for western Pennsylvania in April 2019. By that time, Watson had left Up in Arms and joined American National Tattoo in North Fayette Township.
Foster said her apprenticeship to Watson was unpaid and required her to work eight hours a day, six days per week. She obtained a paying job to support herself.
Just two weeks into her apprenticeship, though, Foster said she was “backed into a corner and manipulated into sexual contact with Zack. I say manipulated, rather than forced, because it was his words that put me into that position.”
Watson would threaten her when she disagreed with him, said Foster, who explained she felt isolated after moving from across the country. “In my own head I was convinced that if I didn’t obey every demand, every word, he’d take everything from me,” she wrote.
In addition to the sexual activity, Foster said she shared “intimate photos and videos of myself to appease” Watson.
“I fear that in a lot of ways because of the nature of the messages and the fact that there was no threat or pressure ever written out that these messages may come off as though I was not only willing in this behavior, but that I was the one instigating it,” Foster wrote.
Watson threatened to “blacklist” her in the tattoo and piercing industry if she exposed his actions, Foster said. Once she began dating someone, Watson seemed to lose interest in her, both personally and professionally, she said.
Foster said she decided to leave Watson and the apprenticeship after she learned of a similar post made by a woman.
Foster’s post generated an outcry in the tattoo and piercing community with it receiving nearly 600 reactions, 232 comments and 575 shares as of Tuesday.
It has also prompted a Change.org petition, shared by Foster on her Facebook page and cited by Watson in his suit, demanding that Sewickley shut down Watson’s business, which has garnered more than 750 signatures by Tuesday.
The lawsuit, however, claims Watson and Foster had a consensual sexual relationship until she left for North Dakota in September 2019.
Watson’s suit says Foster also posted “unfounded allegations” on Instagram and Reddit. The posts, he says, have caused him to “lose existing and potential customers, and substantial revenue.”
Watson has suffered emotional distress and anxiety as well as economic and financial losses and a damaged reputation because of Foster’s posts, according to the lawsuit. “At no point in time has Plaintiff Watson raped and/or sexually assaulted” Foster, it states.
Also, the lawsuit denies that Watson ever “coerced or manipulated” Foster into sending him sexual videos or photos.
“The accusation that (Watson) engaged in non-consensual sexual relations with any person and/or sexually abused any person and/or acted in a sexually predatory manner toward any person is unequivocally and absolutely false,” states the lawsuit.