City News

Massage company with Madison locations under fire for handling of sexual assault cases

A Massage Envy located on McKee Road fired an employee last year after he sexually assaulted a client.

Image By: Gina Heeb

A massage company that has several Madison-area locations has come under fire for alleged mishandling of sexual assault cases.

At least 180 women have filed sexual assault suits against Massage Envy franchises across the country and their employees, a Buzzfeed News investigation found. The company has nearly 1,200 locations nationwide. There are three in the Madison area — one on the East side, one in Fitchburg and one in Middleton.

The company doesn’t oblige franchisees to report sexual assault allegations to police, unless local laws require it. While Massage Envy requires internal investigations in those circumstances, guidelines surrounding them are vague, Buzzfeed reports.

The reports happened over a span of 15 years, the company said in a statement, but also noted that one incident is “too many.”

“We are constantly listening, learning, and evaluating how we can continue to strengthen our policies with respect to handling of these issues,” the statement said.

An employee at the Fitchburg location was arrested last year last year after admitting to improperly touching a female client while working.

Former massage therapist Christopher Ehrett, 33, was charged with third-degree sexual assault for the offense, which the victim said left her “traumatized, humiliated and shamed.” A Dane County judge sentenced Ehrett to three years of probation and six months of jail time last June.

Ehrett touched the 22-year-old’s victim’s genitals during a Dec. 12 massage session, according to a criminal complaint. He also slid his hand across her breasts, before asking if she enjoyed “the teaser.”

According to the complaint, Ehrett told police he “misread” the situation and thought the client had been flirting with him.

Staff at the East side and Middleton locations did not immediately respond to interview requests. A manager at the Fitchburg location declined to comment.

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