Nov. 28, 2017 – On November 27, 2017, The Watson Firm, on behalf of Amanda Pennington filed a multi-million-dollar lawsuit against Massage Envy JSMRx d/b/a/ Massage Envy in the Santa Rosa Circuit Court.
The Complaint alleges that Ms. Pennington’s therapist, Dwayne McDonald, sexually assaulted Ms. Pennington by rubbing his fingers for several minutes through Ms. Pennington’s genitalia on August 2, 2017 at Massage Envy’s Gulf Breeze location. McDonald was arrested on October 24, 2017 for violation of Fla. Stat. 794.011.5(B), “sexual assault/sexual battery, 18 years or older without that person’s consent nor physical force,” a second-degree felony. Pursuant to the police report, McDonald had been under investigation at least once before for sexual misconduct. The Complaint alleges two counts against Massage Envy for Negligent Training, Supervision, and Retention and for Negligence.
Massage Envy’s culture of sexual assault and battery is beyond the scope of a few isolated locations; instead, it is nationwide. The Complaint alleges that Massage Envy’s corporate culture of sexual assault on its clients is systemic. More than 180 women have filed sexual assault lawsuits, police reports and state board complaints against the massage chain, its franchised locations, and employees. Massage Envy provides little guidance to its 1,170 franchised locations in 49 states on how to properly handle sexual assault claims. It merely promises a “fair” and “thorough” investigation, which seldom, if ever, leads to a police involvement. Oftentimes, a client who reports an incident of sexual assault is sent out the door with only the “promise to investigate and take appropriate action.” Ms. Pennington initiated the police report, and after Massage Envy’s investigation, McDonald is no longer employed and may never work at its locations again.
Massage Envy maintains that despite its national oversight of the franchisees, it is not responsible for sexual assault claims. In a major report released on November 26, 2017, BuzzFeed stated that the billion-dollar company says that sexual assault is not its problem to solve. Rather, the company stated that in over 125 million massages provided, only 180 of clients have reported such acts, which is “one incident too many.” Lawsuits have been filed against Massage Envy in at least 16 states.