Who doesn’t like watching a heated cooking battle on Iron Chef America? Unfortunately for one popular Iron Chef, Mario Batali, he’s about to find himself knee-deep in a legal battle after being accused of discrimination. Who accused the chef of discrimination, and why? According to the New York Daily News, “Isaac Franco Nava, an openly gay pastry chef who has worked at two of Batali’s restaurants in New York City,” has decided to sue “the owners of Batali’s West Village eatery Babbo for discrimination based on his sexual orientation and race.”
The lawsuit itself was filed in Brooklyn Supreme Court just two weeks ago, and named a number of people in the suit, including the owners of Batali’s eatery, Babbo, Franco’s “manager and two of his co-workers, in addition to Batali and Batali’s restaurant partner Joseph Bastianich.”
So what happened to result in such a lawsuit? Well, according to Franco, the discrimination began back in 2015 as soon as he began working at Babbo. According to Franco, “the defendants called him girly and referred to him as both a “f—-t” and a pájaro, which, according to the documents Franco filed with the Kings County clerk, is a Spanish word meaning parrot,” and is also a “derogatory term toward homosexuals.” Additionally, his manager and one co-worker allegedly “made derogatory comments about his race.”
The lawsuit claims the “abuse was open and notorious,” and on top of all that, Franco also claims the restaurant’s management conspired “to get him fired after he repeatedly complained to the restaurant’s head pastry chef.” He also claims that, after complaining about the discrimination, “his tormentors received only minor discipline” and that they “resumed [their] campaign of harassment and discrimination” after he filed complaints.
Nonetheless, he continued to complain about the treatment and was told the “issue would be escalated to Batali and Bastianich themselves.” However, before the issue escalated that far, Franco claims he was set up by a supervisor that resulted in his employment being terminated. How was he set up? Well, according to Franco, back on April 17 he “missed out on the family meal the eatery served to its employees that day before restaurant service began,” so was given a “raw pork chop to take home.” When he returned the next day to work, he was promptly “called into a manager’s office, where he was accused of stealing the pork chop and asked to sign a document admitting guilt.” After refusing, he was fired.
The suit alleges that “had Plaintiff Franco been heterosexual and not complained about homosexual harassment, he would not have been fired.” A statement by Franco’s attorney, Eric Baum, also claims that Franco was initially “very excited to work at Batali’s restaurants.” The discrimination he endured while working at the restaurant is unfortunate, prompting Baum to issue a statement saying:
“Isaac is a proud member of the gay community and to be routinely harassed at work because of his sexual identity and race is completely unacceptable. He brought this lawsuit … to make sure this does not happen to any other employee.”