A woman has come forward with allegations that she was sexually assaulted at a hotel spa, mirroring claims in a lawsuit against the hotel that its general manager refused to fire sexual predators.
The woman, who spoke with the Daily Press on the condition of anonymity, told police that she was sexually assaulted in January 2018 by her massage therapist at the spa inside the JW Marriott Le Merigot in Santa Monica. She came forward after the Daily Press reported on a lawsuit filed in September that alleges spa manager Christina Mills repeatedly asked the hotel’s general manager Damien Hirsch to fire staff members who allegedly sexually assaulted spa guests.
The lawsuit claims that Hirsch ignored Mills’ recommendations and the employees allegedly continued to assault guests. The hotel fired Mills last November, despite praising her work in several performance reviews.
The woman, who had patronized the spa once before, said she became uncomfortable when her massage therapist watched her get undressed. During the massage, she said, he touched her breasts and placed his erect, clothed penis on her hands. She said she left the room, told a receptionist she had been assaulted and ran out of the hotel.
She reported the assault to the Santa Monica Police Department, which investigated the incident and referred it to the Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office for filing. The City Attorney’s Office rejected the case due to insufficient evidence, said city spokesperson Constance Farrell.
The woman said an SMPD detective told her that another spa guest had complained about the same massage therapist. The detective asked her to pick out the massage therapist from a lineup of photographs, but she was not completely sure that she could identify him and did not select a photograph.
She also said Mills, the spa manager, reached out to her multiple times by email to find out what happened during her massage. She told Mills and Hirsch, the general manager, that she had a horrible experience and wanted her money back but did not reveal the details of the assault.
She said she corresponded with the SMPD detective until July 2018, when he told her he was waiting on a review for charges against the massage therapist.
“I never heard from him again,” she said. “I was trying to move on and put it out of my head. I was just hoping he would do it and I never followed up.”
While Mills was employed at Le Merigot from September 2016 to November 2018, she repeatedly asked Hirsch for permission to fire spa employees whom guests said had inappropriately touched them, according to the lawsuit. Mills said she also told Hirsch and other top managers that the workers were allegedly misclassified as independent contractors.
Mills said Hirsch refused to allow her to terminate the predatory employees because he was afraid the workers would sue them for classifying them as independent contractors rather than employees.
Mills said she was fired after several months of reporting the assaults and alleged misclassification, even though Hirsch had written in performance reviews that Mills had addressed the spa’s problems and optimized its productivity, calling her “the absolute perfect fit for what needed to happen in this hotel.”
Mills filed the lawsuit against Hirsch and Columbia Sussex, a hotel company that operates the JW Marriott Le Merigot. Mills seeks damages to cover lost past and future income and benefits in a sum to be determined at trial.
Columbia Sussex declined to comment on the lawsuit. Hirsch could not be reached for comment.