three chefs in a kitchen cooking.

Celebrity Chef Mario Batali Settles Sexual Harassment Claims with NY Attorney General

By Douglas Lipsky

Celebrity Chef Mario Batali has agreed to pay $600,000 to at least 20 employees as part of a settlement with the New  York State Attorney General. This case illuminates the prevalence of sexual harassment in the restaurant industry and what you can do about it. If you have been subjected to harassment while working in a restaurant, talk to an experienced sexual harassment lawyer about your rights and legal options. 

The Backdrop

Allegations of sexual harassment against Batali first surfaced in 2017 when a number of female employees claimed that Batali engaged in a pattern of harassment, including unlawful touching and making sexually offensive comments. Batali stepped down after multiple servers and other workers came forward with complaints, and, in 2109, sold his stake in his restaurants.

After launching an investigation in 2020, the attorney general found that that Batali, former business partner Joseph Bastianich, and their restaurant group (formerly known as B&B Hospitality), had engaged in sex discrimination and harassment in violation of city and state human rights laws. 

During the state’s investigation, restaurant employees alleged sexual harassment by managers and coworkers was pervasive, including “unwanted touching, sexual advances, and explicit comments.” In particular, the investigation found that:

  • Batali himself grabbed a female server’s hand and pulled it towards his crotch
  • Batali showed a male server an “unwelcome” pornographic video
  • Male managers at the restaurants made offensive sexual comments
  • There was a culture of unwanted groping, kissing, hugging, sexual advances, and explicit comments at Batali’s restaurants

The Settlement with Batali & Co.

The $600,000 settlement will be paid by Batali, Bastianich, and their management company, 

Pasta Resources (formerly known as B&B Hospitality). How many employees will receive payments and the amount and timeline of those payments has yet to be determined, however. 

In addition, the company must:

  • Revise its training materials in all restaurants
  • Submit biannual reports to the attorney general’s office (including records of harassment and discrimination training and policies)
  • Demonstrate compliance with the agreement for the next 3 years

Meanwhile, Batali is still facing several civil sexual harassment lawsuits and criminal charges for allegations of indecent assault and battery. 

Why This Matters

The Batali settlement highlights how the attorney general’s office has stepped up its efforts to enforce city and state human rights laws. Nonetheless, sexual harassment continues to plague the restaurant industry and other workplaces throughout the state. 

Whether in the form of unwanted sexual advances by supervisors or sexually offensive comments or conduct by anyone in an employment setting, sexual harassment is an unlawful form of sex discrimination under state and federal law. 

If you have been subjected to harassment in your workplace, you have a right to file a civil lawsuit to recover damages for your losses and the emotional harm you have endured. The best way to protect your rights is to consult with an experienced New York employment law attorney.

About the Author
Douglas Lipsky is a co-founding partner of Lipsky Lowe LLP. He has extensive experience in all areas of employment law, including discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environment, retaliation, wrongful discharge, breach of contract, unpaid overtime, and unpaid tips. He also represents clients in complex wage and hour claims, including collective actions under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and class actions under the laws of many different states. If you have questions about this article, contact Douglas today.