Mario Batali’s defense lawyer said all of the things he was supposed to after prosecutors earlier this year charged the celebrity chef with indecent assault and battery.
“Mr. Batali denies the allegations in both this criminal complaint and the civil complaint filed last August,” Hogan Lovells LLP partner Anthony Fuller said in a statement. “The charges, brought by the same individual without any new basis, are without merit. He intends to fight the allegations vigorously and we expect the outcome to fully vindicate Mr. Batali.”
Only time will tell whether vindication comes. Until then, the case against Batali offers a good reminder of the value of Employment Practices Liability Insurance, which can help protect hospitality (and other) businesses whose employees are alleged to have conducted themselves inappropriately.
As Fuller alluded, the criminal case against Batali is an echo of the civil case he’s facing. (The same, of course, can be said of the civil and criminal allegations in the Harvey Weinstein saga.)
In any case, according to the plaintiff in the Batali case, she was dining at a restaurant in a Boston neighborhood when she spotted the famed chef. Batali offered to take a selfie with her and, according to the lawsuit, he grabbed her chest, kissed her and otherwise touched her without her consent.
In earlier misconduct accusations against Batali, the chef was accused of sexually harassing and inappropriately touching four women — including three former employees — in December 2017. Shortly thereafter, he stepped down from the operations of his restaurant group. Also, ABC’s “The Chew,” a talk show that Batali co-hosted, was canceled.
Mama mia, right?
EPLI isn’t new, of course. Nearly half of the nation’s largest employers have an EPLI plan. But too few smaller employers don’t carry it and that leaves them dangerously vulnerable.
EPLI covers not just sexual harassment but also wrongful termination, discrimination, failure to employ, wrongful discipline, breach of contract and a variety of other employee lawsuits.
EPLI coverage is typically purchased as either a stand-alone policy or included with general liability or directors and officers liability packages.
The cost of a policy will vary according to the amount of protection and the size of the business. Most policies include a retention, which is similar to a deductible and must be paid before the expenses associated with a claim can be paid. The plan can then cover court costs, attorney fees and any compensation associated with the claim.
As with any insurance policy, be careful of exclusions. These can include intentional acts and bodily injury exclusions, which will likely mean no coverage for assault and battery.
Battery, in case you read right past it, is one of the charges facing Batali.
Not incidentally, EPLI policies will cover sexual harassment that occurs only while your employee was acting in the course and scope of his or her employment, not if their conduct took place at a bar on a Saturday night.
One more important point in this discussion: EPLI coverage is not a license to commit employment-related acts of harassment or discrimination. Employees and managers should be regularly trained in how to deal appropriately with others.
Brian Parks is CCIG’s Commercial Lines VP of Sales. Reach him at BrianP@thinkccig.com or at 720-330-7923.
CCIG is a Denver-area insurance brokerage with personal and business insurance clients nationwide. We do more than make sure you have the right policy. We also help you lower your long-term cost of insurance with our risk and claims management expertise and a commitment to service excellence.