Woman sues Massage Envy after employee arrested for sexual assault

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A woman is suing the Massage Envy corporation and a local Massage Envy spa for $25 million after she reported that an employee inappropriately touched her.

Northwest D.C. lawfirm, Cohen & Cohen, announced the lawsuit today, which only identifies the woman as married and in her 20's.

The customer behind the lawsuit was the first one to come forward about the employee, 24-year-old Habtamu Gebreselassie.

Metropolitan Police say he was arrested back on September 17th after the customer reported that Gebreselassie inappropriately touched her pelvic region with his mouth at the Massage Envy in Tenleytown.

"It was a 90 minute massage, for the most part the massage was professional, the last minute 15 minutes he covered her eyes and uncovered her pelvic area," says Kim Brooks-Rodney, a partner at Cohen & Cohen.

"She was given medication to help prevent any sexually medicated diseases," she says. "It’s going to be a little while before she finds out about that, so she’s got to live with that disgusting sort of detail, on top of being violated in a place where she should feel safe."

Two other women came forward with allegations since.

According to police, one woman reported that Gebreselassie inappropriately touched her at the Massage Envy in Tenleytown in late August.

Another woman reported that she was inappropriately touched by Gebreselassie at another spa, Deluca Massage and Bodywork in Northwest D.C., back in June.

Brooks-Rodney says they also learned of an assault before all of these reports at a Massage Envy in Bowie.

"Why Massage Envy would knowingly transfer and retain a massage therapist that had committed a sexual assault is beyond me, the man should have been fired after the first incident," she says. "I hope it’s not profit for their retaining this massage therapist but I can’t really think of any other reason to retain him."

In an e-mail, Massage Envy, LLC said "we do not comment on on-going legal matters."

In a statement, Deluca Massage said:

"Deluca Massage & Bodywork has been proudly servicing the DC area for over 17 years, it's one of the biggest massage therapy facilities in the city with 13 therapy rooms.

I can confirm that Mr. Habtamu Gebreselassie worked at Deluca Massage for a short period of time between mid June to early August when he resigned.  This type of behavior is not accepted at Deluca Massage & Bodywork and it will not be tolerated.  Deluca Massage & Bodywork will cooperate with authorities with everything needed for this investigation."
Wayne Cohen, one of the customer's lawyers, said in the statement, “It is imperative that the company, in all approximately 1,200 locations, implement proper screening, training, and supervision of its employees and contractors."
Massage Envy will have a certain amount of time to respond to the lawsuit and the legal process will move forward from there.