The Claremont Hotel and Spa is facing claims from a guest who says she was sexually assaulted by her massage therapist during an appointment last December at the luxury resort.
The woman filed a complaint with hotel management, the Oakland Police Department, and state regulators, but says they all failed to investigate. Nine months after the alleged incident, she is now suing the Claremont and her massage therapist claiming negligence, sexual harassment, and battery. The lawsuit was filed on September 27th in Alameda County Superior Court by the Jacobsen White Law firm.
On December 30th, the woman, who filed suit under the alias “Jane Doe,” says she went in for a massage with a therapist she’d seen several times before. She said this time, he wrapped a pillowcase over her eyes and began touching her inappropriately.
“When he massaged up my body, his hands caressed the sides of my breasts,” Doe said. Initially she said she clamped her arms down, thinking it was an accident, but then he went further.
“He put his hands on my breasts,” Doe told NBC Bay Area. “I grabbed his hands immediately and pulled them off and said, ‘No that’s not OK.’ I reported [the incident] immediately to management.”
Doe said no one from the hotel took a statement, or followed up to speak with her after the incident, so two days later, Doe filed a report with Oakland police alleging misdemeanor sexual assault. The report shows investigators called the Claremont and left a voicemail, but never actually spoke with anyone, including the massage therapist.
NBC Bay Area reached out to Oakland police about the investigation, but the department declined to comment, stating the investigation is still open.
NBC Bay Area also reached out to the alleged suspect for comment. We are not naming the massage therapist since he has not been questioned by police and did not respond to our calls by press time.
Frustrated with the response from police, Jane Doe filed a complaint with the California Massage Therapy Council (CAMTC). She learned that her massage therapist’s certificate expired in November – a month before her incident.
Months after Doe’s reports to the Oakland police department seemed to go nowhere, Doe filed a complaint with the City Administrator’s Office, where her concerns seemed to fall through the cracks again.
“That’s how the system is set up. It’s so difficult, they just want you to let it go,” Jane Doe said.
E-mails obtained by NBC Bay Area show an Oakland city administrator renewed the massage therapist’s permit in April, telling police investigators she didn’t know “any of this had taken place” before issuing a renewal and asked officers “if we should deny this permit.”
Police responded saying they would reach out to Doe for follow up, stating she “wasn’t returning the investigator’s calls,” a claim which Doe denies, saying she had no e-mails, missed calls or voice mails from any Oakland police investigators.
“[The City Administrator’s Office] said they would report it to two officers who handle sex crimes and those officers would call me and no one has ever called me,” Doe said.
The Claremont, a Fairmont hotel, declined our request for an interview but in a statement executive director Charles Head wrote, “At Claremont Club & Spa, our highest priority is always the safety and welfare of our guests and staff. We implement and enforce training procedures and internal protocols to maintain an environment which is inclusive and free from harassment and injury. Any allegations of assault, harassment or inappropriate conduct, including those made in this instance, are taken very seriously and addressed in accordance with those protocols. A thorough and prompt investigation of this alleged instance was conducted and concluded months ago.”
After NBC Bay Area started asking questions, an investigator with the Massage Therapy Council contacted Jane Doe for the first time this week to follow up on her complaint from January. The agency is now reviewing her report.
In the meantime, Doe said she’s concerned other visitors to the spa could be at risk.
“He’s still allowed to work there and I’m very concerned about him being able to sexually assault other patrons,” Doe said.
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