Six California women this week sued Massage Envy, the nation's largest massage franchise, for allegedly protecting employees who are accused of sexually assaulting clients, a report said Tuesday.
A San Francisco resident, one of the six plaintiffs, who is identified as "Jane Doe #1," visited Massage Envy's Burlingame location in November and described an encounter with Brandon James Davis, 28, saying he allegedly sexually assaulted her during a session, the East Bay Times reported, citing the lawsuit.
"These things will continue to happen until the company is honest with the public about this problem and giving consumers fair warning before they come in, undress, and get naked in a room with a complete stranger,” Doe's attorney, Bobby Thompson, said.
Davis was being held on $250,000 bail on six felony counts of sexual battery by fraud and seven misdemanor counts of battery, involving 13 reported victims, the report said.
Massage Envy's corporate office in Scottsdale, Ariz., released a statement regarding this week's lawsuit. It said in part:
“While we aren’t able to comment on active litigation, we can tell you that we remain focused on our Commitment to Safety plan, which is further strengthening our existing policies. Safety is and will always be our priority and we will never stop working on it.”
The company referred the public to its website, which outlined steps the company has taken to address the sexual misconduct issue.
The other five women in the lawsuit claim they were also sexually assaulted at Massage Envy's California locations in Elk Grove, Beverly Hills, Redondo Beach, Studio City and West Covina, according to the Times.
The plaintiffs describe massages that "quickly devolved into forced sexual contact," the paper reported.
“Knowing most victims don’t come forward and report, we want to give them a voice. ... We hope the brave women (who filed suit) will give other women the courage to come forward.”
“This is happening everywhere,” Thompson said. “This company is more concerned about its brand than it is about customer safety.”
San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said the crimes alleged against Davis are unconscionable, the paper reported.
“When people are placing their bodies in the hands of a doctor, a dentist, or a masseuse, they’re putting trust in them,” he said. “To violate that trust with over a dozen women, if proven, he can only be described as a true sexual predator in our book.”
“Knowing most victims don’t come forward and report, we want to give them a voice,” Thompson said. “We hope the brave women (who filed suit) will give other women the courage to come forward.”
This week's report comes on the heels of last year's explosive BuzzFeed News report on more than 180 women coming forward with accusations of sexual assault against the company's massage therapists and managers.
Scores of former clients have accused Massage Envy's employees of criminal behavior, including unwanted groping, fondling and sexual assault, according to the report.
Franchisees and managers, too, have been accused of mishandling or covering up incidents of alleged sexual misconduct.