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Woman accuses Massage Envy worker of sexual assault at Burlingame location

SAN FRANCISCO -- A new sexual assault allegation has been leveled at a Massage Envy franchisee in Burlingame which has had a history of sexual assault claims against it.

A Burlingame resident who identified herself as Jane Epstein said at a news conference Wednesday she was filing a lawsuit against the company over an alleged sexually assaulted at the spa chain in May of 2017. Her attorney claimed the management of the Burlingame Massage Envy knew the accused employee had allegedly sexually assaulted another woman in 2013, but didn't report it to police. 

Woman identified as Jane Epstein speaks to reporters at a press conference in Redwood City, Feb. 8, 2023.  CBS

The worker was kept on as a massage therapist at the location, which allowed him to be able to sexually assault Epstein in a dark room at the Burlingame site, the lawsuit claims. The worker was eventually let go at the start of the COVID pandemic.

Epstein's attorney Bobby Thompson said the assault has been reported to police. 

In 2018, a group of women sued the Massage Envy chain alleging they were sexually assaulted at the Burlingame location and other locations across California. Epstein's attorney Bobby Thompson said Wednesday the 2017 and 2018 cases were settled out of court and his office was representing other women's sexual assault cases in California.

Epstein said the experience has left her traumatized.

"I walked in there as one person and I came out of there as a different person," she said.

Epstein on Wednesday urged other women who may have been sexually assaulted to come forward, no matter how much time has passed, and bristled at a question about why she waited years to report the alleged assault.

"I think we've all heard this in the past, that people who experience sexual trauma and sexual abuse and sexual assault, why, why did we wait?" said Epstein. "I can tell you that I waited, I felt alone, I felt shame, I felt embarrassment, and I wanted to protect my husband." 

A Massage Envy spokesperson told KPIX the company "is committed to promoting a safe environment for members, guests and service providers at each of the approximately 1,100 franchised locations nationwide. We urge anyone who experiences anything other than a safe, quality massage to report it immediately to the franchised location so that it can be investigated."

The spokesperson said the company could not comment on pending allegations or litigation involving independently-owned franchisees but noted the Burlingame location has been under new ownership since 2019. 

The accusations in California are among the dozens of sexual assault claims nationwide against the Massage Envy chain since it opened in 2002, with many being settled out of court. The company has some 1,200 franchise locations around the country employing about 25,000 massage therapists.

In 2017, Massage Envy announced changes to its procedures, including requiring their franchisees to provide any client who makes an allegation of sexual assault with contact information for local law enforcement and offer them a private room to complete that call.

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