Massage Envy, including Encinitas site, sued by clients alleging sexual misconduct

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A newly filed lawsuit alleges that female clients at four Massage Envy locations in California, including one in Encinitas, were victims of sexual misconduct at the hands of staffers during massage sessions.

The suit, filed in San Mateo Superior Court on Thursday, July 18, targets the four business locations as well as Massage Envy’s corporate offices. The list of complaints include negligence and sexual battery.

The women say they were groped, fondled or inappropriately touched by massage therapists during sessions dating between 2014 and 2016.

The suit also targets five male staffers, but does not name them. Likewise, the four accusers are not named, but rather are referred to as Jane Does. Two of the four accusers are residents of San Diego County.

Massage Envy issued a statement that it could not comment on the pending litigation “but we believe we have established best-in-class practices to address the types of issues alleged in this lawsuit,” and cited help from its safety advisory council.

One of the accusers alleges two incidents at the site on El Camino Real in Encinitas. The alleged incidents occurred in April and July 2016, and involve two different massage therapists.

Both alleged incidents involved unwanted groping and touching. After the second incident, the woman demanded an end to the massage. When she later called the Massage Envy location she had visited in Encinitas to to report what had happened, she was offered an apology and a free massage, according to the lawsuit.

The other Massage Envy sites named in the suit include one in Riverside County and two in Northern California.

The lawsuit, handled by a San Francisco law firm, alleges that the company’s protocol encourages handling of sexual misconduct complaints in-house. It also asserts that the company’s strategies included “sham investigations.”

No representative from the Encinitas location returned a call Friday, July 19, seeking comment.

In the statement from the corporation’s media relations department, Message Envy said it also works with RAINN — the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network — an anti-sexual violence organization.

“These and other concrete actions underscore our commitment to promoting a safe environment for members, guests and service providers at each of our nearly 1,200 franchise locations,” the company said, “and we will never stop working to have industry-leading safety policies.”

— Teri Figueroa is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune