Twenty former employees of celebrity chef Mario Batali and his former business partner Joe Bastianich will split $600,000 following a four-year investigation into allegations the partners engaged in unlawful sex discrimination and retaliation, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced Friday.
James said the investigation found Batali, Bastianich and their management company B&B Hospitality in violation of state and city human rights laws.
James said the investigation found that between 2016 and 2019, at least 20 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 had also been accused of sexually harassing a female server by grabbing her hand and pulling it towards his crotch and showing a male serve a pornographic video, James added.
A culture that favored male staff and frequently degraded women were upheld by chefs and managers at their restaurants, made apparent through employee complaints, James said. Many female employees said managers made comments about their looks and instructed some women to wear more makeup and get breast implants.
The investigation found that B&B employers often discouraged employees from reporting sexual harassment and failed to take action when any were made, according to James. In two instances of alleged sexual assault by male staff, the attorney general said B&B's HR department failed to respond adequately.
The agreement reached between Batali and Bastianich and the state stipulates that in addition to payouts totaling $600,000, the restaurants under their ownership must revise training materials and submit biannual reports to James' office to certify compliance.
“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," James said in a statement announcing the settlement.
Batali stepped down from daily operations at his restaurant empire and cooking show "The Chew" in December 2017 after four women accused him of inappropriate touching over a period of 20 years.
Batali's food empire once included such high-end eateries as Babbo in Del Posto in New York City, as well as restaurants in Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Singapore, and Eataly in Boston. He became a household name through appearances on Food Network shows such as "Iron Chef America."
He'd previously called his past behavior "deeply inappropriate" but had not released a statement following the agreement with the attorney general and told the New York Times he would not comment on the settlement.