Harassment and Discrimination at Restaurants Owned by Famed Chef Mario Batali and Joseph Bastianich
Investigation Found That Restaurants Fostered Hostile Work Environments For Years
NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced an agreement with celebrity Chef Mario Batali and Joseph Bastianich, their management company B&B Hospitality, and their restaurants Babbo, Lupa, and the now-closed Del Posto for fostering a hostile work environment that permitted a sexualized culture of misconduct and harassment at their restaurants in New York City. Following allegations of sexual harassment against Mario Batali in 2017, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) opened an investigation into these claims and found that B&B, Batali, and Bastianich had engaged in unlawful sex discrimination and retaliation, in violation of state and city human rights laws. The allegations reported unwanted touching, sexual advances, and explicit comments made by managers and coworkers to other employees of the restaurants. As a result of this investigation, B&B, Batali, and Bastianich must pay $600,000 to at least 20 former employees, revise training materials in all B&B restaurants, and submit biannual reports to the OAG 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,” said Attorney General James. “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.”
“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,” said Juliana Imperati, a former line cook at Del Posto. “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.”
“Throughout the course of my employment at Del Posto, I endured constant, escalating sexual harassment,” said Brianna Pintens, a 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. I have immense gratitude for the Attorney General’s Office for believing us, taking us seriously, and giving hope that this industry is on its way to healing and repairing a deeply flawed history.”
Today’s agreement was the culmination of a four-year investigation into allegations against Batali and Bastianich both individually as employers and on behalf of B&B and their restaurants. More than 20 employees were subjected to a hostile work environment in which female and male employees were sexually harassed by Batali, restaurant managers, and other coworkers. Between 2016 to 2019, multiple employees witnessed or personally experienced unwanted sexual advances, inappropriate touching, and sexually explicit comments from managers and coworkers, and several female employees were forcibly groped, hugged, and/or kissed by male colleagues. Batali 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.
Female employees specifically made complaints that chefs and managers blatantly favored male employees and made misogynistic comments degrading women in the workplace. 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 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.
The B&B employers failed to take appropriate action when confronted with reports of sexual harassment, often failed to investigate complaints, and discouraged the reporting of such incidents. Complaints to management were generally dismissed with minimal or no action taken against the harassers. The OAG found that, on at least two occasions, when employees complained of sexual assault incidents outside of the workplace by male colleagues, B&B’s human resource department initially responded that the company could not take any action because the assault took place outside of the workplace, or could not take action unless the complainant filed a police report.
In addition to paying $600,000 to the workers, the agreement stipulates the revision of training materials in all B&B restaurants, as well as biannual reports to certify compliance with the agreement. Batali, Bastianich, and B&B have agreed to implement more comprehensive training geared towards fostering a safe, healthy work environment. They will also submit biannual reports to the OAG to certify compliance with this settlement, including records of harassment and discrimination training and policies for the next three years.
The settlement is part of Attorney General James’ ongoing efforts to address harassment and discrimination in the workplace. The OAG is continuing to review and evaluate claims. If you believe you were a victim of sexual harassment or discrimination that occurred at any of these restaurants since at least 2016, please contact the office at 212-416-8250.
This case was handled by Senior Counsel Sandra Pullman of the Civil Rights Bureau, Assistant Attorney General Roya Aghanori, Assistant Attorney General Anielka Sanchez Godinez, Volunteer Assistant Attorney General Hannah Bernard, and Labor Bureau Chief Karen Cacace. The Labor Bureau is a part of the Division for Social Justice, which is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux and overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.
Source: Press Release
Date: July 23, 2021
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