Celebrity chef Mario Batali, who has run restaurants in New York and Connecticut, has reached a $600,000 settlement for survivors of sexual harassment and discrimination at restaurants owned by him and a former partner.
Following a lengthy investigation, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced an agreement with Batali and Joseph Bastianich, their management company B&B Hospitality, for fostering a hostile work environment that permitted a sexualized culture of misconduct and harassment at their restaurants and their restaurants Babbo, Lupa, and the now-closed Del Posto
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An investigation was first launched into Batali and his restaurants, including in Westchester and Fairfield counties, in 2017 following allegations of sexual harassment against the celebrity chef and his staff.
The allegations included claims of unwanted touching, sexual advances, and explicit comments made by managers and coworkers to other employees of the restaurants.
"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,” Juliana Imperati, a former line cook at Del Posto said. “Sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation should never be normalized in any industry or workplace.”
According to James, that investigation “found that B&B, Batali, and Bastianich had engaged in unlawful sex discrimination and retaliation.”
Female employees specifically made complaints that chefs and managers blatantly favored male employees and made misogynistic comments degrading women in the workplace.
James said that in several instances, a manager made comments about the female employees’ appearance, including observations about their height and weight. They were told to wear makeup and even to get breast implants.
The manager also allegedly 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.
“Throughout the course of my employment at Del Posto, I endured constant, escalating sexual harassment,” Brianna Pintens, another former server at Del Posto. “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.
“While I can’t speak for the countless other victims who faced ongoing harassment and discrimination, I can say that my time working for B&B permanently tarnished my goals and passions for hospitality.”
In response, James said the three have agreed to pay a total of $600,000 to at least 20 former employees. They were also ordered to revise training materials in all B&B restaurants, and submit biannual reports to the AG’s. office to certify compliance with the agreement.
“Celebrity and fame does not absolve someone from following the law. Sexual harassment is unacceptable for anyone, anywhere — no matter how powerful the perpetrator,” James said in a statement. “Batali and Bastianich permitted an intolerable work environment and allowed shameful behavior that is inappropriate in any setting.
“Every individual deserves to work in a safe environment, and today's agreement marks one more step towards remedying workplace harassment.”
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