Once high-flying celebrity chef Mario Batali, his business partner Joseph Bastianich and their former restaurant company will pay $600,000 to more than 20 former employees, after a New York attorney general investigation found that management at three of their famed restaurants had suffered sexual harassment and discrimination.

At New York hot spots Babbo, Lupa, and the now-shuttered Del Posto, “female and male employees were sexually harassed by Batali, restaurant managers, and other coworkers,” according to a Friday statement by the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James.

“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 the statement. “Batali and Bastianich permitted an intolerable work environment and allowed shameful behavior that is inappropriate in any setting.”

The attorney general’s investigation documented allegations that had been publicly leveled at Batali specifically and at the two men for fostering a culture where sexual harassment was rampant. Batali himself made sexually explicit comments to a female server, and grabbed her hand, pulling it toward his crotch, according to the attorney general. One manager made comments about women’s height and weight, and instructed them to wear makeup and to get breast implants.

Male servers were favored over women, who were belittled in front of guests and not given prime tables, the probe found. Management regularly dismissed complaints without looking into them and discouraged employees from bringing them, it determined.

Several women interviewed as part of the investigation described their relief at the settlement, which they say could help end the acceptance of such abuse in the restaurant industry.

“When my female coworkers and I were being sexually harassed by multiple people at Del Posto, the restaurant’s leadership made us feel as if we were asking for it — as if it is a rite of passage to be harassed at work,” Juliana Imperati, a former line cook at Del Posto, said in the attorney general’s statement. “Sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation should never be normalized in any industry or workplace.”

Emails to Batali and Bastianich were not immediately returned.

Last year, James said she was scrutinizing Batali and Bastianich when she announced a $240,000 settlement with Ken Friedman, the owner of the New York gastropub Spotted Pig, in which they were investors.

Sexual harassment allegations against Batali emerged in news reports starting in 2017, including in The Washington Post, which reported that the hard-partying chef had groped women at an Oscars party he hosted and had made unwelcome physical contact with employees.

Batali was dropped as a host on ABC’s “The Chew” and later sold his share of the restaurant empire he owned with Bastianich to Bastianich and his sister, Tanya Bastianich Manuali. In 2019, he pleaded not guilty to charges of assault and battery of a woman who alleged that he groped her at a Boston restaurant. A trial date has not been set.

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