A new report by Broadly indicates many females who work as professional massage therapists report experiencing constant sexual harassment – mostly from clients or prospective clients.
This sexual harassment can include anything form inappropriate requests to heckling to unwanted touching, usually from male clients.
Erotic massages, which are a sexual service, are illegal in the U.S., except for in licensed brothels in Nevada, where prostitution is legal. Nonetheless, several high-profile incidents of arrests for illicit massages (a form of prostitution) has led to erroneous presumptions about what these professionals do. Legitimate therapists, who studied for their position and are certified and consider themselves health professionals, are often inundated with insults, sexual rhetoric and sleazy comments.
One professional therapist showed a reporter text messages from potential clients that ask questions that would be more relevant for a date, such as how old she is, where she is from and whether she has a boyfriend. Some prospective clients have been so bold as to ask what she’ll wear during an appointment and if she could don only a bra and panties for the appointment.
Although the therapist canceled the appointment, his messages persisted, even when she informed him they were scaring her. He insisted he wasn’t a sexual predator, but rather a doctor. He still didn’t stop sending her messages until several days later.
Some therapists must go so far as to announce up front that they are professional therapists who do not offer sexual services.
One therapist reported that when she made it clear she would not offer sexual services to a client, he called her a lesbian. When she asked him to leave, he stood up quickly and then made a gesture as if he was preparing to hit her.
Some in the profession say the issues are so pervasive, they cannot see themselves doing this work much longer.
Whether a sexual harassment claim can be filed against the employer/ owner of a massage parlor will depend on the individual circumstances. For example, if a therapist informs a supervisor that a certain client is engaging in sexual harassment or other behavior that makes the therapist uncomfortable and the owner/ supervisor does not terminate the business-client relationship, that could be grounds for litigation.
There could also be grounds for a civil lawsuit against the client if a sexual assault does occur. Damages could be collected for physical harm, as well as mental and emotional distress.
Professional codes of conduct say that if a client makes an inappropriate request, therapists should use language that delineates clear boundaries. If that doesn’t work, therapists are advised to immediately stop treatment and/or contact and call the police to file a report.
Still, some massage therapy professionals lamented that if they filed a police report for every incident that fit that description, they would be filing police reports all the time.
So while reports of massage therapists inappropriately touching clients tend to make splashy headlines, the problem of sexual harassment suffered by the therapists – a problem that is seemingly far more pervasive – tends to get far less attention.
If your employer fails to take your well-being seriously, you may have a valid claim for damages in a sexual harassment case.
Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 949.375.4734.
Female Massage Therapists Face Persistent Sexual Harassment, Jan. 13, 2017, By Vanessa Parekh, Broadly.com
More Blog Entries:
EEOC: LGBT Discrimination Charges on the Uptick, Feb. 15, 2017, Orange County Sexual Harassment Lawyer Blog