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Owner of Manhattan’s Spotted Pig eatery settles sex harassment suit with 11 employees

Trish Nelson, one of the 11 victims and former server at the Spotted Pig. (Photo by Mark Hallum)

A Manhattan restauranteur will be paying out in the triple digits to 11 former employees who sued him over sexual harassment allegations.

Ken Friedman, the owner of the Spotted Pig in the West Village, agreed to pay $240,000 as well as a share of the profits from the eatery to the victims after state Attorney General Letitia James brokered a settlement.

“These incidents were reported, but with the person in charge also being the perpetrator, nothing was done to seriously address these issues,” James said. “The reality is that for years Mr. Friedman has maintained a toxic environment where employees were routinely mistreated. They were silenced, they were ignored, they were threatened and in some of these cases they were wrongfully terminated.”

The allegations go back as far as 2005 and surfaced in 2018 in a New York Times story that detailed what the Attorney General’s office viewed as a violation of city and state human rights laws – a hostile and highly sexualized workplace – as it was claimed that Friedman and others were guilty of unwanted touching as well as other sexual advances.

More specifically, Friedman forcibly kissed employees and pressured them to send nudes on multiple occasions since 2004, according to James.

According to the AG, when the victims filed complaints, Friedman allegedly retaliated with threats of termination and having them blackballed from the restaurant industry.

Each of the victims will receive a share of the $250,000 parceled out every two years for the next ten along with 20 percent of Friedman’s profits as well.

Trish Nelson worked as a waitress in the Spotted Pig’s party room where celebrity guests were catered to as well as the VIP room.

“For a lot of women working within this field, filtering harassment and abusive behavior has been commonplace,” Nelson said at a press conference Monday. “Many people question why women like me have taken so long to come forward about these experiences. My answer to them is that up until this point, people truly have not cared what’s been going on behind the scenes of this industry.”

Celebrity chef Mario Batali is also being investigated for his role in misconduct in association with Friedman.

“As a result of our investigation, we have received credible information about his alleged actions and separately, we are looking into him, his business partner, his management company and his three restaurants,” James said.

James claims others alleged to have abused employees of the Spotted Pig included celebrity guests to the popular nightlife spot, but did not include any names.

Also as part of the arrangement, Friedman will be stepping down as principal owner and operator as well as implement new policies. Employees will be informed of their rights while managers will be schooled on sexual harassment, discrimination, hostile work environment and anti-retaliation protections under city and state human rights laws.

Friedman, however, will remain a shareholder in the company where the 20 percent of profits will be pulled from for victims.

Each of the complainants will get $10,000 and 50,000 depending on factors such as length of employment.

According to James, the allegations were corroborated from different angles as well as an admission from Friedman in media reports. 

Friedman could not be reached for comment before press time.

Mark Hallum