Celebrity chef Mario Batali settles harassment probe for $600,000


The celebrity chef Mario Batali and his former business partner Joe Bastianich have agreed to pay out a $600,000 settlement to the 20 men and women who said they were sexually harassed while working at their restaurants.

New York Attorney General Letitia James announced the settlement on Friday following a four-year investigation into the alleged culture of rampant sexual harassment at the restaurants.

The investigation found a culture rife with sexual harassment at the Manhattan restaurants Babbo, Lupa and Del Posto, which closed permanently in April, with employees reporting that managers and colleagues groped them, kissed them against their will, or made sexual comments. 

‘Batali and Bastianich permitted an intolerable work environment and allowed shameful behavior that is inappropriate in any setting,’ James said in a statement. ‘Celebrity and fame does not absolve someone from following the law.’

Bastianich

Mario Batali (left) and his former business partner Joe Bastianich (right) have agreed to pay out a $600,000 settlement to resolve sexual harassment allegations at the restaurants they ran

Chef Mario Batali is seen at the grand opening of New York City's Eataly in 2010

Chef Mario Batali is seen at the grand opening of New York City’s Eataly in 2010

‘Every individual deserves to work in a safe environment, and today’s agreement marks one more step towards remedying workplace harassment,’ she added. 

James’ report alleged that Batali, a former Iron Chef who regularly appeared on the Food Network, himself sexually harassed a female server by making explicit comments to her and grabbing her hand while she was serving him and pulling it towards his crotch. 

On another occasion, Batali showed a male server at Lupa an unwelcome pornographic video, the attorney general said.

Female employees specifically made complaints that chefs and managers blatantly favored male employees and made misogynistic comments degrading women in the workplace, the report found.

In several instances, a manager made comments about the female employees’ appearance, including observations about their height and weight. 

Some female employees said they were told to wear makeup and even to get breast implants, and that male colleagues would tell them to get on their knees or discuss the attributes of their mouths.

Mario Batali (left) and his former business partner Joe Bastianich (right) appear with former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg at Eataly's grand opening

Mario Batali (left) and his former business partner Joe Bastianich (right) appear with former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg at Eataly’s grand opening

Babbo is one of the three NYC restaurants that the duo operated. Batali surrendered ownership of his stakes as troubling allegations mounted

Babbo is one of the three NYC restaurants that the duo operated. Batali surrendered ownership of his stakes as troubling allegations mounted

Victims who came forward said they wanted to see a change in the restaurant industry, where they say that all too often sexual harassment is viewed as routine or mere horseplay. 

‘Sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation should never be normalized in any industry or workplace,’ said Juliana Imperati, a former line cook at Del Posto, in a statement.

‘When my female coworkers and I were being sexually harassed by multiple people at Del Posto, the restaurant’s leadership made us feel as if we were asking for it — as if it is a rite of passage to be harassed at work,’ she added. 

Female employees also complained that chefs and managers blatantly favored male employees and made misogynistic comments degrading women in the workplace.

One manager referred to several female employees in front of dining guests as ‘little girl’ and ‘sensitive,’ and said that ‘females should not work in the mezzanine,’ which was a main part of the restaurant, according to the report. 

‘Throughout the course of my employment at Del Posto, I endured constant, escalating sexual harassment,’ said Brianna Pintens, a former server at Del Posto, in a statement. 

‘Management routinely ignored these behaviors, made excuses for the perpetrators, and often used victim blaming as a way to avoid having to deal with a workplace culture rooted in fear and humiliation,’ she added.

New York Attorney General Letitia James announced the settlement on Friday following a four-year investigation into reports of rampant sexual harassment at the restaurants

New York Attorney General Letitia James announced the settlement on Friday following a four-year investigation into reports of rampant sexual harassment at the restaurants

Batali’s oversight of workplace culture first came under scrutiny in 2017, when the restaurant news website Eater reported allegations of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct.

The celebrity chef denied an allegation of sexual assault, but said at the time: ‘My past behavior has been deeply inappropriate and I am sincerely remorseful for my actions.’ 

In March 2019, Batali surrendered ownership of his stakes in B&B Hospitality Group, and sold his minority ownership in Eataly, an Italian food marketplace in Manhattan.

Later that year, he pleaded not guilty to charges of indecent assault and battery in Boston. 

As part of the settlement, Batali, Bastianich and management company B&B Hospitality, now known as Pasta Resources, must pay $600,000 to at least 20 former employees, revise training materials in all B&B restaurants, and submit biannual reports to the attorney general’s office to certify compliance with the agreement.  



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