Mario Batali, his former partner Joe Bastianich and the company they used to run together will pay $600,000 to at least 20 women and men who were sexually harassed while working at Batali and Bastianich’s Manhattan restaurants, The New York Times reports.
The settlement was announced Friday, July 23rd, by New York State attorney general Letitia James. It followed an investigation that was launched in 2017 after #MeToo allegations surfaced against Batali. Along digging into the claims against Batali, the investigation focused on the broader culture of harassment that flourished at Batali and Bastianich’s restaurants, with the settlement stating that the harassment was so bad it violated state and city human rights laws.
“Batali and Bastianich permitted an intolerable work environment and allowed shameful behavior that is inappropriate in any setting,” James said in a statement. “Celebrity and fame does not absolve someone from following the law.”
The investigation echoed many claims shared by former employees online and in the press. Male employees, from line cooks to managers, would grope or kiss women against their will, or make sexually suggestive remarks to them. Additionally, women were frequently passed over for promotions, and complaints to managers were not taken seriously.
The claims against Batali detailed in the investigation include an incident where he allegedly sexually harassed a woman who was serving him, grabbing her hand and pulling it towards his genitals. He also allegedly showed a pornographic video to a male waiter at one of his restaurants, who did not want to see it.
A lawyer for Batali did not immediately return Rolling Stone’s request for comment.
While the report included no specific allegations against Bastianich, it did stress the role he played in allowing such toxic behavior to continue unchecked. Bastianich and his sister bough Batali out of their company in 2019, renaming Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group, Pasta Resources.
“The past few years have truly been a transformative period,” Bastianich told The Times. “Including the pandemic, there have been a lot of lessons learned over the past three and a half years, and it has given us an opportunity to redefine our business and the culture we want to foster within our restaurants, emerging as the company we want to be.”
Batali is also facing at least two civil suits, as well as a potential criminal trial. In 2019, he pleaded not guilty to charges of indecent assault and battery in Boston after woman accused him of groping her at a meet-and-greet while she took a selfie. While a trial date has not been, the next court hearing is scheduled for September 15th.