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Mario Batali

Accused in Butt-Slapping Suit

Of Ignoring Sexual Misdeeds

12/22/2011 1:23 PM PST BY TMZ STAFF

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Mario Batali's name has been dragged into a sexual harassment lawsuit in New York -- in which an ex-waiter claims the famous chef stood by for months ... while his fellow workers tortured him with butt slaps and masturbation stories.

Eugene Gibbons filed the suit in NY Supreme Court, claiming several co-workers ruthlessly harassed him while he worked at Batali's Babbo Restaurant in NYC -- co-owned by "MasterChef" judge Joe Bastianich.

According to the suit, Eugene's co-workers "smacked his buttocks on a weekly basis," repeatedly grabbed his genitals, and made crude sexual comments ... including one instance when an employee told Eugene he masturbated to Eugene's pictures after his wife went to sleep.

Eugene claims Batali and Bastianich were fully aware of the harassment -- but did nothing to stop it ...  the suit claims ... by their inaction the two chefs condoned the campaign of humiliation.

Eugene ultimately quit -- he's now suing his former co-workers and the restaurant for unspecified damages. Batali and Bastianich were not named as defendants. Calls to Mario and the restaurant were not returned.

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