Batali & Bastianich to pay $ 600,000 settlement in sexual harassment case

An investigation into the former Manhattan restaurant business built by the chef Mario batali and her former partner Joe Bastianich hav...


An investigation into the former Manhattan restaurant business built by the chef Mario batali and her former partner Joe Bastianich have exposed a sexualized culture so marked by harassment and retaliation that it violated state and city human rights laws, the New State Attorney General said on Friday. York, Letitia James.

In a settlement negotiated by Ms James’ office, the two men and Pasta Resources, the company formerly known as Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group, will pay a total of $ 600,000 to at least 20 women and men. who were sexually harassed while working in Manhattan restaurants Babbo, Lupa or Del Posto, who until it closed permanently in April was the crown jewel among the possessions of men.

The survey formally detailed what former employees discussed on social media and in interviews: Men created a misogynistic culture where women regularly endured sexual comments, groping and kissing against their will. An official has asked the waiters to get breast implants or make other changes to their appearance, the attorney general said. Male colleagues would tell women to kneel or discuss the attributes of their mouths.

Women were ignored for prominent promotions in the dining room and told that “girls” couldn’t be table captains, the survey showed. Complaints to managers were minimized or dismissed.

“Batali and Bastianich have allowed an intolerable work environment and allowed for disgraceful behavior that is inappropriate in any setting,” Ms. James said. “Fame and fame do not exempt someone from following the law. “

Mr Batali, reached by text message, said he would not comment on the settlement.

“The past few years have truly been a time of transformation,” Bastianich said in a statement to The Times. “Including the pandemic, there have been a lot of lessons learned over the past three and a half years, and this has given us the opportunity to redefine our business and the culture we want to foster within our restaurants, becoming the business we want. to be.”

Julianna Imperati, who spent about a year as a Del Posto line cook in 2017 and 2018, was one of more than 20 victims of sexual harassment interviewed by investigators. She described both witnessing and experiencing incidents of sexual harassment, including being caught by a line cook. The then managing director and chief executive made the women feel like they were asking for it and treated the incidents as rites of passage, she told investigators.

“I want all women in the restaurant industry to know that it is not normal to be harassed, assaulted or sexually abused just because you are a woman,” she said in a statement. at the Times.

“It’s not a rite of passage, and it didn’t happen because you were too friendly,” she said. “It happened because the men and women in power allowed it to happen.”

The investigation began in 2017, when the #MeToo movement exploded and the news on the sexually aggressive behavior of Mario Batali started to surface.

By the end of the year, Mr. Batali had been fired from the ABC cooking and talk show “The Chew” and had taken a step back from the restaurants he owned with Mr. Bastianich. In 2019, Mr. Bastianich and his sister, Tanya Bastianich Manuali, purchased all of Mr. Batali’s shares in a number of condominium restaurants, ending a 20 year relationship between men.

At its peak, Batali & Bastianich encompassed dozens of restaurants and food companies in the United States, Italy, Singapore and Hong Kong. The company has been reconfigured and no longer use that name.

Mr. Bastianich constantly downplayed his own role in the restaurant atmosphere and instead focused publicly on the sexual misconduct of Mr. Batali, whose culinary fame at the time had few rivals.

Mr Bastianich has said in previous statements that he was not fully aware of Mr Batali’s sexual assault, but heard him say inappropriate things to employees.

“Although I criticized him from time to time, I should have done more,” he said. “I neglected my responsibilities by diverting my attention from restaurants.”

The attorney general’s investigation, without citing Mr. Bastianich for specific acts of sexual harassment, throws his role in a new and harsher light and points out that the two men were responsible for the toxic environment.

Brianna Pintens, who started as a waitress at Del Posto and quickly rose to a bigger role in the dining room, said the harassment was so widespread that employees shared tips on the best routes to avoid screaming while ‘they were heading for the bathroom.

She told investigators she was being harassed by a cook whose comments started out as occasional compliments on her appearance, escalated into repeated pressure to go on a date, and ended in a surprise bear hug that Picked her up as she was about to go to work.

Ms Pintens spoke to a general manager, who dissuaded her from talking to the HR manager and suggested that she find a solution on her own.

She was consoled by Melissa Rodriguez, the executive chef, and the man was not at work for a while. She didn’t know if he had been suspended or if he just hadn’t planned to work while she was working. Within weeks, he got back to the line and acted like nothing ever happened between them.

“Having been in the industry for so long and having been through some really messed up stuff, I thought it was just another story that would be swept under the rug and there wouldn’t be any consequences,” Ms. Pintens said.

The attorney general highlighted specific behavior of Mr. Batali, including an incident in which he sexually harassed a woman who was serving him, then grabbed his hand and pulled it towards his genitals, and another in which he showed a pornographic video to a male waiter. to Lupa who didn’t want to see him.

In addition to payments, the settlement calls for an overhaul of sexual harassment training and procedures at Mr. Bastianich’s restaurants and any where he or Mr. Batali might have a majority over the next three years. Reports on the progress of the restaurant group must be submitted to the Attorney General every six months.

Carolyn D. Richmond, employment lawyer for Bastianich and the restaurant group, said many of the training and staff management improvements mandated by the attorney general have already been made.

“In particular, I think we were the first restaurant group in New York City to set up a 24-hour, third-party employee hotline,” she said.

In many ways, the accord resembles a colony negotiated in 2020 between Ms James and Ken Friedman, the main owner of the spotted pig restaurant in Manhattan, who agreed to pay $ 240,000 and a share of the restaurant’s profits to 11 former employees who accused him of sexual harassment, retaliation and discrimination.

The investigation, which began in 2018, also found that employees had suffered “serious and pervasive incidents of unwanted contact and unwelcome sexual advances” by Mr. Batali, once an investor in the Spotted Pig and a frequent guest.

Mr Friedman shut down the Spotted Pig the same month the settlement was reached, killing the profit-sharing element of the deal. He paid $ 192,000 to the attorney general’s office, which distributed it to the 11 women who had laid the charges. A final payment of $ 48,000 is due October 1.

In the case of Mr. Bastianich and Mr. Batali, the attorney general’s office is still in the process of determining how many employees will receive payments and how much those payments will amount to. Ms James’ office will continue to interview all former employees who believe they may have a claim.

“I’m glad these ladies who worked for Mario are financially compensated,” said Trish Nelson, one of the Spotted Pig servers who was sexually harassed by Mr. Friedman. She offered her support to one of the women throughout the investigation of Mr. Batali and Mr. Bastianich.

“Even though $ 20,000 over five years is laughable for most, it’s $ 20 million for women like us,” she said.

Mr. Batali still faces at least two civil suits and a possible criminal trial.

In 2019, he filed a plea of not guilty of indecent assault and assault and battery charges against a woman who asked her for a selfie at a Boston bar in 2017. She told police he grabbed her breasts, buttocks and groin, had kissed his mouth and cheeks forcibly, and suggested they go to his hotel next door.

A trial date has not been set, but the next hearing in the case is scheduled for September 15. The woman, Natali Tene, also filed a lawsuit in Suffolk County Superior Court in 2018, based on the same incident. Another woman, Alexandra Brown, filed a similar complaint based on an incident with Mr Batali during a selfie shoot in Boston’s Chinatown.

New York Police Department closed three investigations in sexual assault allegations against Mr. Batali in 2019 because detectives could not find enough evidence to make an arrest.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Batali & Bastianich to pay $ 600,000 settlement in sexual harassment case
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