Mario Batali and Joseph Bastianich of B&B Hospitality Group agreed to pay $600,000 to at least 20 former employees in a settlement following a four-year investigation that found multiple violations of unlawful sex discrimination and retaliation, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced Friday.
The attorney general found that the Batali, Bastianich and B&B Hospitality — which has been renamed Pasta Resources — had violated state and city human rights laws. The allegations reported include unwanted touching, sexual advances, and explicit comments made by managers and coworkers to other employees of the restaurants between 2016 and 2019.
Batali and Bastianich made headlines in 2017 after a number of employees went public with allegations of sexual misconduct. One of a number of chefs called out in the #MeToo movement, Batali divested his interest in all of the restaurants in 2019, but Bastianich still holds substantial ownership in Babbo and Lupa. Del Posto was sold in early 2021, and was closed.
B&B and the two men were accused of fostering a “boys club” that consistently allowed women to be verbally and physically harassed, including unwanted sexual advances, inappropriate touching and sexually explicit comments. Some workers were forcibly groped, hugged and/or kissed by male colleagues.
In one example, Batali 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, James said.
Women reported being called “little girl” and “sensitive” in front of customers. They were told to wear makeup or get breast implants. And female employees said chefs and managers blatantly favored male employees and made misogynistic comments degrading women in the workplace.
“Celebrity and fame does not absolve someone from following the law. Sexual harassment is unacceptable for anyone, anywhere — no matter how powerful the perpetrator,” said James 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. I thank the men and women who reported this abhorrent behavior for their bravery, selflessness, and commitment to accountability.”
On another occasion, Batali showed a male server at Lupa an unwelcome pornographic video, the attorney general’s investigation found.
In addition to the payment, the settlement dictates that B&B Hospitality must revise training materials in all restaurants and submit biannual reports to the attorney general’s office to certify compliance with the agreement.
Bastianich issued a statement to the NY Times, saying, "The past few years have truly been a transformative period. Including the pandemic, there have been a lot of lessons learned over the past three and a half years, and it has given us an opportunity to redefine our business and the culture we want to foster within our restaurants, emerging as the company we want to be."
The chef reportedly still faces at least two civil suits and a potential criminal trial, though the settlement notes that the findings of James’ investigation are not admissible as evidence in the litigation being contemplated.
Juliana Imperati, a former line cook at Del Posto, said in a statement, that the settlement is an important step in holding the powerful accountable.
“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 said. “Sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation should never be normalized in any industry or workplace. This settlement is an important step in holding the powerful accountable, and I thank Attorney General James for continuing to right the wrongs done to countless workers in the restaurant industry every single day.”
Brianna Pintens, a former server at Del Posto, also issued a statement, saying, “Throughout the course of my employment at Del Posto, I endured constant, escalating sexual harassment. 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.”
Contact Holly Petre at [email protected]