Mario Batali is in legal hot water yet again. Fourteen months after being hit with a lawsuit by employees who claimed he and his partners had skimmed off a portion of the tip money at his LA restaurant Mozza, he finds himself embroiled in another employee lawsuit.
TMZ reported Thursday that Eugene Gibbons, a former waiter at Batali's Greenwich Village restaurant Babbo is suing a group of co-workers, who he says regularly groped him while he worked at Babbo. The suit claims that the co-workers repeatedly smacked his buttocks and grabbed his genitals. One allegedly bragged that he would masturbate to Gibbons' picture in bed after his wife had fallen asleep.
The stakes are at least as high -- the case involves sexual harassment -- though Batali himself isn't the defendant, just a named party in the case. Gibbons alleges that Batali was aware of the pattern of harassment and did nothing to intervene.
Gibbons claims the harassment eventually got so bad that he was forced to quit his job at Babbo.
For what it's worth, Batali is known for occasionally exhibiting raunchy behavior. Writer Bill Buford, in his account of working at Babbo, Heat, mentions Batali's penchant for using arousal metaphors when talking about food and restaurants.
And, of course, restaurants are known for playing host to some outre, even innappropriate, sexual behavior. A cook at Morton's Steakhouse in Florida, for example, recently filed a suit not unlike Gibbons', in which he said restaurant management ignored patterns of abuse at the hands of the restaurant's head chef.