In states across the country, women are coming forward to report being sexually assaulted by massage therapists employed by Massage Envy franchises. According to reports, the nationwide chain of massage spas has received more than 180 reports of sexual assault committed by therapists during appointments.

In this article, we discuss several topics related to these cases including:

  • What did the BuzzFeed Investigative Report Discover About Massage Envy Assault Cases?
  • Massage Therapist Allowed to Work After Reports of Misconduct
  • Can Facilities Get Away With Failing to Report Sexual Assault Claims?
  • Holding the Corporation Liable in Massage Therapist Sexual Assault Cases
  • Has Massage Envy Learned Its Lesson?
  • What Should You Do If You Have Been Assaulted at a Massage Envy Location?
  • Effects of Sexual Assault on the Victim

What did the BuzzFeed Investigative Report Discover About Massage Envy Assault Cases?

BuzzFeed News investigated reports of sexual abuse and concluded that the company did more to protect its brand than it did to ensure customer complaints were handled correctly. BuzzFeed’s review concluded that customers had been subjected to horrific and shocking acts of sexual assault only to be turned away when they reported the assault to employees and company representatives. In addition, the company not only brushed aside the complaints of sexual assault by its customers, the company allowed the massage therapists to continue working and, in some cases, to continue assaulting other women.

Massage Therapist Allowed to Work After Reports of Misconduct

A glaring example of how the franchise may have chosen policy over customer protection begins with a customer’s allegation of sexual assault in 2015. A customer was receiving a massage at a Massage Envy location in Pennsylvania. She had received massages from this specific massage therapist six other times. During the session, the massage therapist sexually violated the client, including penetrating her vagina. She was filled with shock and fear and left the location distraught. After arriving at home, she called to report the incident, but the manager refused to stop the massage therapist from continuing a current session with another female client. The manager also refused to contact the owner.

The victim contacted the police to report the sexual abuse. The perpetrator admitted to assaulting the client when police officers interviewed him that afternoon. However, he also admitted to assaulting other clients while working for Massage Envy. Eventually, the massage therapist plead guilty to charges of sexual molestation of nine women while employed by Massage Envy.

However, the shocking revelation was that the victim who called the police was not the first woman to report abuse to the company. At least two of the women reported improper conduct by the massage therapist to Massage Envy. At least one woman told the spa that the therapist sexually assaulted her at least three months prior to the assault that resulted in his arrest. However, the spa alleged that the allegations were not credible.

The company used the fact that the women would not return to the spa to discuss the allegations as one of the reasons they did not find the complaints credible. The owner claims that she was following policy set by Massage Envy when she requested the client return to the spa to discuss the allegations.

Unfortunately, The Facility May Not Be Required to Report Sexual Assault Claims

In many states, massage facilities are not required to report allegations of sexual assault to law enforcement authorities. Massage Envy instructs its franchises to conduct a fair and thorough investigation promptly when a customer alleges sexual assault. However, it does not provide guidance on how to investigate matters of sexual assault. In addition, the company does not provide training to ensure its employees are equipped to handle investigations involving potentially criminal acts by its massage therapists.

In addition to not requiring its franchises to file police reports when a customer complains that a massage therapist sexually assaulted the customer, the company does not require franchises to display reporting policies or hire experienced investigators to handle the matter internally.

Massage Envy Denies Liability for Sexual Assault Claims Against Individuals and Franchises

Massage Envy corporate has denied any liability for sexual assaults that take place at any of its spas. The corporation claims that the individual spas control the operations at the spas and are better equipped to decide how to investigate and handle matters of inappropriate conduct. However, plaintiffs in several actions argue that the corporation is liable because the parent company trains franchises and employees and educates them on company policies. In addition, the parent company sets the operational standards for the franchise, including the decision to investigate allegations of sexual assault internally.

Holding the Corporation Liable in Massage Therapist Sexual Assault Cases

If a massage therapist assaults a client, we assume that the massage therapist can be held liable on a criminal and civil basis. However, is the massage therapist the only party liable for the victim’s damages? In some cases, the owner of the company may be held liable for civil damages. In the Massage Envy cases, the national franchise may be named as a defendant with the individual massage therapist and the local franchise owner.

National franchises are extremely careful to protect their reputation and image. Anything that tarnishes one franchise can negatively impact each franchise across the country. Therefore, franchises often require strict compliance with various protocols. However, if protocols put customers in danger, the franchisor may be held liable.

For instance, if the national headquarters for the franchisor directed a franchise owner not to file a police report and not to report a massage therapist to the licensing board after a client’s complaint of assault, the franchisor could be placing the client, and other clients in danger. By preventing the local franchisee from reporting allegations of sexual assault to protect the company’s reputation, the corporation is allowing the perpetrator to continue assaulting clients. In addition to the victim, other clients are placed at risk of being sexually assaulted.

Has Massage Envy Learned Its Lesson?

After the BuzzFeed News investigation was published, more women came forward to report incidents of sexual abuse by massage therapists employed by Massage Envy. In a Massage Envy lawsuit filed in San Mateo County, CA in July 2018, five women allege that male massage therapists sexually assaulted them at Massage Envy locations in Southern California.

In part, the suit claims that the company is not taking enough steps to prevent, report, track, and investigate sexual abuse allegations against its employees. The suit alleges that a male massage therapist is facing 13 counts of sexual assault arising from incidents at just one Massage Envy location. Even though clients reported the abuse to the management of the Massage Envy location, the managers refused to take any actions against the massage therapist claiming the “stories did not match up.”

The suit also alleges that managers at various Massage Envy locations covered up incidents of sexual misconduct and/or mishandled the complaints by clients. Instead of taking the appropriate actions to prevent further conduct, employees allowed the massage therapist to continue working even though multiple women had come forward to report incidents of sexual assault or other inappropriate sexual behavior.

Massage Envy claims that it is focused on protecting its clients by continuing to implement a safety plan designed to strengthen its existing policies. The six-point safety plan was apparently developed after BuzzFeed News revealed its findings after investigating 180 allegations of sexual misconduct by Massage Envy employees. The plan calls for annual background screening for massage therapists employed by Massage Envy, thorough investigations of sexual assault claims, a review of the company’s procedures and policies by an anti-sexual violence organization, and improved support for anyone who reports sexual misconduct to the company.

However, are these steps sufficient to ensure that other women will not be subjected to sexual assault or sexual misconduct by Massage Envy therapists. In addition, is improving existing policies and procedures adequate compensation for victims who were treated as if they had committed wrongdoing by reporting incidents of sexual assault? Victims of sexual assault can suffer long-term effects from the abuse and deserve to be compensated for their injuries and damages.

What Should You Do If You Have Been Assaulted at a Massage Envy Location?

We understand that you have suffered an unimaginable physical and emotional injury. Our goal is to encourage women to come forward who have been assaulted at a Massage Envy location. We want to give a voice to each woman who has been sexually assaulted.

The assault is horrific, but the aftermath of being ignored and swept under the rug is unthinkable. You deserve justice, and you deserve to have your story heard by a court of law. You can join together with other women who have suffered the same experience you have suffered who are taking a stand to hold Massage Envy accountable for its actions.

If you are the victim of sexual assault, it is important that you contact an attorney to discuss your legal options. Your time to file a lawsuit is limited by law. Therefore, you do not want to wait too long to speak with an attorney. At Thompson Law Office, we understand the sensitive nature of this issue. We represent women who have struggled with the decision whether to come forward. Therefore, we know that your decision to contact our office may be difficult.

Your consultation with one of our attorneys is strictly confidential, and you are under no obligation to retain our law firm. We simply want to provide you with the legal advice you need to decide how you want to proceed regarding a potential claim against Massage Envy. Regardless of your decision, you can trust that you will be treated with the respect, dignity, and compassion that you deserve.

Effects of Sexual Assault on the Victim

The effects of sexual assault can be devastating for the victim, especially when the victim is treated with the callous disregard that many of the Massage Envy victims suffered when they attempted to report the abuse to the company. Physical injuries from sexual assault are only one of the effects that a victim may suffer. In many cases, the physical injuries may heal, but the emotional and mental injuries may never heal. Even in cases in which the victim did not suffer any physical injuries, the emotional and mental damage can be life-altering.

Some of the emotional and psychological effects of sexual assault include:

  • Depression
  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Sleep disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Self-harm
  • Substance abuse
  • Dissociation
  • Suicide

Victims of sexual assault may be entitled to recover compensation for financial losses and non-economic damages including:

  • Medical expenses, including the cost of mental health treatment and counseling
  • Loss of income, including the loss of income or diminished earning capacity caused by the emotional state that results after a sexual assault
  • The mental anguish, PTSD, depression, and other emotional suffering caused by the sexual assault

At Thompson Law Office, we understand that a monetary award will never undo the pain and suffering caused by the sexual assault. However, it is important to hold Massage Envy and the other parties responsible for the sexual assault accountable for their negligence and wrongdoing.

By shining a light on this problem, you can help more women come forward to share their stories and seek justice for the harm they suffered at the hands of a sexual predator and a corporation that tried to protect its image and brand instead of protecting its customers. In addition, monetary judgments in injury cases may help deter other companies from taking similar actions that could harm others.

The Thompson Law Office is Accepting Massage Envy Sexual Assault Cases

At Thompson Law Office, we are fighting for victims who have been sexually assaulted at Massage Envy locations. We are fighting to hold the massage therapist, owners, and the corporate entity liable for the damages caused by their negligence and wrongdoing. Our attorneys are committed to fighting for the rights of our clients and other women who deserve to have their voice heard.

We invite you to contact our office to speak with one of our lawyers if you have been the victim of sexual assault at a Massage Envy location.

We have ongoing litigation regarding these claims and would like to hear what happened to you. You have the legal right to confront the responsible parties and demand that they are held accountable.

Source: “More Than 180 Women Have Reported Sexual Assaults At Massage Envy.” Katie J.M. Baker. BuzzFeed News. 26 November 2017

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