Photo courtesy of Bloomberg
New York Attorney General Leticia James brokered a settlement in which Batali, Bastianich, and Pasta Resources, formerly known as the Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group, will pay $600,000 to at least 20 former employees on the basis of sexual harassment during their time; these individuals have formerly worked in any of the duo’s restaurants in Manhattan including Babbo, Lupa, or Del Posto. Although the number is around 20 as of now, James’ office is still investigating other former employees who believe they have a claim, and is still determining how many employees will receive how much money exactly. In addition to the financial compensation, the settlement requires Bastianich to implement an overhaul of sexual harassment training and procedures at his restaurants, as well as any that either men have majority ownership in. This will need to take place over the next 3 years, and progress reports have been mandated by James’ office every 6 months. One employment lawyer for the group, Carolyn D. Richmond, responded to this aspect of the settlement, stating that the mandated sexual harassment training and procedures have already been put into place, including a “24-hour employee hotline operated by a third party.”
The findings from James’ investigation mirrored what former employees have been discussing over the years: a misogynistic culture, constant sexual comments and actions against employees’ wills, unwanted suggestions to change appearances, demands for sexual acts, sexist scheduling and management, and a complete downplay or dismissal of complaints. James stated that “Batali and Bastianich permitted an intolerable work environment and allowed shameful behavior that is inappropriate in any setting… celebrity and fame does not absolve someone from following the law.” Of particular importance was James’ findings on Bastianich. Whereas Bastianich has downplayed his role in fostering the restaurants’ sexual-harassment-charged environment, opting to publicly call out Batali for his sexual misconduct instead, James made an effort to emphasize both men’s responsibility in the case. Although she did not cite Bastianich for specific acts of sexual harassment, she did single out, and detail, Batali’s acts and behavior.
The response has been largely victorious for employees involved in the settlement. They have highlighted that the (negligible) sum of money is trivial compared to the significance of the settlement and its findings as a whole. Exemplifying a common sentiment amongst former employees, Julianna Imperati stated that “I want every woman in the restaurant industry to know that it is not normal to be sexually harassed, assaulted or abused simply because you are a woman… it is not a rite of passage, and it didn’t happen because you were too friendly, it happened because the men and women who are in power allowed it to happen.”
Bastianich has publicly responded to the settlement, stating that “The past few years have truly been a transformative period, 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, on the other hand, has remained quiet; he is still facing two civil suits and a looming criminal trial amongst more that are sure to arise.
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