On March 6, 2019, the 20-year business partnership between celebrity chef Mario Batali and the Bastianich family of restaurateurs, Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group, was formally dissolved following allegations by several women more than a year ago that he sexually assaulted and harassed them at his restaurants years earlier. Tanya Bastianich Manueli and her brother Joe Bastianich have bought all of Mr. Batali’s shares in the restaurants. As a result, Mr. Batali has been fully divested and will no longer profit from his former restaurant group, and his name already has been removed from the group’s website. A new company (not yet named) has been formed to replace the now defunct Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group. Ms. Bastianich Manueli will run day-to-day operations at the new company.

Batali’s exit from the restaurant group more than a year after the sexual assault and harassment allegations highlights that allegations of sexual harassment in the workplace can have a long-lasting, deleterious effect on business and, undoubtedly, on morale. The Bastianich family’s move to separate itself and its restaurants from Mr. Batali and the sexual misconduct of which he was accused also signals to employers in the hospitality industry that they are not yet out of the spotlight when it comes to sexual harassment awareness and prevention. As noted in our February 25 post, attempts to target and reform working conditions in the hospitality industry continue to develop and two states – New Jersey and Illinois – recently proposed legislation that would require restaurants to adopt a sexual harassment training policy and provide anti-sexual harassment training to employees. Several states, including New York and California, already require all private employers (of a particular size) to provide sexual harassment training to their employees.

Given the attention that Mr. Batali’s divestment from his restaurant group has drawn and the ongoing efforts to address sexual harassment in the workplace and in the hospitality industry, in particular, restaurant-employers should consider implementing a sexual harassment policy and training program now. To that end, Epstein Becker Green’s Halting Harassment – an interactive, computer-based training platform – offers an easy solution.

A Full Menu of Potential Legal Issues for Hospitality Owner/OperatorsIn the new issue of Take 5, our colleagues examine important and evolving issues confronting owners, operators, and employers in the hospitality industry:

Read the full Take 5 online or download the PDF.

By: Barry Guryan

As widely reported, employers of all sizes are challenged in complying with the myriad of complex regulatory and compliance obligations under the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”). As our blog readers are well aware, certain large employers, as defined in the ACA, must provide “essential health benefits” that meet the law’s standards to full time employees under the Employer Mandate by 2015 or face penalties. Companies have spent time and money on consultants and lawyers to understand how the ACA impacts their business and their bottom line.

In response, some restaurants are finding unique ways to pay for the costs of compliance required by the ACA. According to a recent CNN article, many restaurants, primarily in Florida, have added an “ACA Surcharge” (typically 1%) to the food and beverage purchases in the bill to cover these costs. Even though the “pay or play” provisions of the ACA do not take effect until 2015, or 2016 for small employers, these restaurants are starting to create a fund which will continue annually. According to the report, customers have been paying the surcharge without protest.

If restaurant owners decide to implement this surcharge, it is best to let patrons know about it either on a sign or verbally by their servers, rather than having them discover the surcharge when they get the bill. Other restaurants may decide it’s better to increase food costs in order to recoup the increase in compliance costs. Even more just may consider it to be the cost of doing business.