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Michael Isabella, center, cooks during a presentation for “Top Chef: Las Vegas” in 2009. AP Photo/Matt Sayles

A federal lawsuit filed Tuesday against celebrity chef Mike Isabella and associated businesses accuses the restaurant chain of fostering a culture of sexual harassment against female workers, including a required “lifetime” nondisclosure agreement that blocks employees from speaking out about alleged workplace abuses.

The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, claims Isabella and certain business partners created a “bro culture” that allows harassment to persist at establishments throughout the Washington area. The civil action builds on and replaces a similar suit filed in D.C. Superior Court last month on behalf of Chloe Caras, who was the highest ranking woman in the company before she was fired after years of alleged sexual harassment.

Caras, the lead plaintiff in the federal suit, claimed that workplace misbehavior included unwelcome touching, sexual advances, vulgar and explicitly sexual remarks and sexist insults, including Isabella and others spreading rumors about sleeping with her. Caras worked for Isabella Eatery for three years.

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