Mario Batali and his former partners will have to pay $600,000 to their restaurant employees who said they experienced sexual harassment

Mario Batali
Mario Batali. Getty Images / Mark Von Holden
  • Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich will pay former employees $US600,000 ($AU814,454) as part of a settlement.
  • The men “permitted an intolerable work environment,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said.
  • The payout will go to at least 20 former employees from three Manhattan restaurants.
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Celebrity chef Mario Batali and his former partner Joe Bastianich will have to pay $US600,000 ($AU814,454) to survivors of sexual harassment and discrimination at New York City restaurants owned by them as part of a settlement reached, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced Friday.

“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,” she said.

The attorney general added, “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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The two restaurateurs and the company formerly known as Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group must pay out $US600,000 ($AU814,454) to at least 20 former employees who said they were sexually harassed at Manhattan restaurants Babbo, Lupa, and the now-shuttered Del Posto.

The attorney general’s office opened an investigation into Batali following claims of sexual harassment against him in 2017, first published by Eater.

Joe Bastianich, Eataly owner
Joe Bastianich. Screenshot

The investigation found that Batali, Bastianich, and the company “had engaged in unlawful sex discrimination and retaliation, in violation of state and city human rights laws.”

Allegations included unwanted touching, sexual advances, and explicit comments managers and coworkers made to other employees of the restaurants, according to the attorney general’s office.

There were also accusations that male colleagues “forcibly groped” several female employees.

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,” the attorney general’s office said.

“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,” the attorney general’s office said in its news release. “On another occasion, Batali showed a male server at Lupa an unwelcome pornographic video.”

Along with the $US600,000 ($AU814,454) payment, company restaurants must revise training materials and submit biannual reports to the attorney general’s office “to certify compliance with the agreement” as part of the settlement.

Following the accusations in 2017, Batali fell off the food scene. ABC fired him from co-hosting its daytime food program “The Chew” and he sold his stake in the restaurants and Italian supermarket Eataly to the Bastianich family. Joe Bastianich is the son of restaurateur and longtime PBS cooking show host Lidia Bastianich.