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New York State Attorney General announces investigation into Mario Batali’s former restaurant group

Additionally, Ken Friedman is leaving The Spotted Pig after AG secures $240k sexual harassment settlement

Months after a string of sexual misconduct complaints, restaurateur Ken Friedman is leaving The Spotted Pig. The news follows a $240,000 settlement from the New York State Attorney General’s office. The disgraced former Spotted Pig owner will have to pay the settlement out over two years, in addition to sharing 20% of his profits with the 11 accusers through 2030. New York State Attorney General Letitia James annouced the settlement at a press conference on Jan. 7. Employees will also receive 20% of profits resulting from any sale of the restaurant.

At the press conference, James  also announced that her office would be investigating Mario Batali and former business partner Joe Bastianich. Batali severed ties with the restaurant group, B&B Hospitality Group (now called RSC Management Services), 10 months ago. 

"As a result of our investigation, we have received credible information about his alleged actions, and separately, we are looking into him, his business partner, his management company, and his three restaurants,” James said during the conference.

In 2017, Batali stepped down from day to day operations of his restaurant group after being accused of sexual harassment by four women. The New York State Attorney General announced in August 2018 that Batali — an investor of The Spotted Pig — was under investigation by the New York State Attorney General for allegations of criminal sexual assault at both the Spotted Pig and Batali's former restaurant, Babbo. 

Although the investigation against him has been dropped by the New York City Police Department, Batali currently faces charges of sexual assault and battery in Boston. He has pleaded not guilty, but if convicted faces up to two and half years in prison, and would have to register as a sex offender.

A source familiar with the matter told Grub Street that the AG’s investigation extends beyond Batali’s actions . The investigation could include the restaurant group’s handling of claims of misconduct. Previously, Bastianich denied knowledge of the full extent of Batali’s sexual misconduct.

“While I never saw or heard of Mario groping an employee, I heard him say inappropriate things to our employees,” Bastianich told The New York Times in March 2019. “Though I criticized him for it from time to time, I should have done more.”

According to the settlement announced today by the AG’s office, the Spotted Pig and its management “maintained a hostile workplace” where several female employees were “subjected to severe and pervasive incidents of unwanted touching and unwelcomed sexual advances by Friedman” including forcible kissing, inappropriate comments and gestures made toward female staff members, and pressure to send him nude photos.

“Every individual deserves to go to work free of fear, abuse, intimidation, and retaliation. I thank the women of The Spotted Pig for their bravery, their voices, and their unwavering commitment to ensuring a safe, harassment-free workplace,” James said in a press statement.

Shortly after the settlement was reached, Friedman announced his official departure from The Spotted Pig in a statement.

“I’m sorry for the harm I have caused, and for being part of an environment where women were afraid to speak up,” Friedman told The New York Times in a statement. “[…] Today we settled the investigation conducted by the Attorney General’s office.

“Although I stepped away from The Spotted Pig some time ago, I am also formally relinquishing my role in management and operations. While I am aware that nothing will completely repair the damage I’ve caused, and although I disagree with several of the allegations, I hope this agreement will bring some comfort to those former employees impacted by my behavior. And I hope we are all able to put this painful chapter behind us.”

In addition to the monetary compensation, the settlement stipulated that the Spotted Pig agreed to implement new policies that inform employees of their rights under the law, and also to provide anti-sexual harassment, discrimination, retaliation, and hostile work environment training to all employees.

Contact Joanna Fantozzi at [email protected] 

Follow her on Twitter: @joannafantozzi

TAGS: People
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