More than 180 people have filed sexual assault lawsuits, police reports and state board complaints in relation to Massage Envy, according to BuzzFeed.
BuzzFeed on Sunday reported that the claims were against Massage Envy spas, their employees and the national company.
Many also said their allegations were ignored or mishandled by employees and owners of individual Massage Envy spas, and by the national company proper.
Over 100 woman reported that Massage Envy therapists groped their breasts or genitals or committed over explicit violations.
BuzzFeed reported that Massage Envy is America’s first and by far largest chain of massage franchises, boasting nearly 1,200 spas nationwide.
Massage Envy told BuzzFeed that it would not be “appropriate to respond point-by-point” to questions “because of pending litigation” and the confidential materials involved.
The general counsel of Massage Envy Franchising said that the company has tried creating the industry’s “most stringent, rigorous policies” for hiring, screening and training therapists.
“We hold franchise owners accountable to our policies and, when we say nothing is more important to us than treating clients with respect and giving them a safe, professional experience, we mean it,” Melanie Hansen said in an email.
Massage facilities have no legal obligation to report sexual assault accusations made on their premises in most states.
Massage Envy does not compel its franchisees to notify law enforcement or hire qualified investigators to help determine what happened save for where it is required by local law.
The company instead instructs franchisees to conduct their own “prompt, fair, and thorough investigation” of any such claims.
BuzzFeed reported that it provides little guidance on how to do so, however, regardless of the seriousness of the allegations, including rape.
Massage Envy corporate has said in court filings and public statements that it is not liable for sexual assaults that happen at its spas due to the nature of the franchise arrangement.
Attorneys for former Massage Envy clients have countered that though the spas are independently owned, the parent company trains their employees in its policies.
Such lawyers have also noted that Massage Envy sets operational standards like the need for internal probes and monitors the progress of those investigations.
Massage Envy corporate should subsequently be held responsible for the failures of those policies, according to the attorneys.