A jury Wednesday rejected claims brought by a former Equinox Pilates instructor who alleged that a masseuse who worked at the same West Hollywood health club sexually abused her during a session in 2016.
The Los Angeles Superior Court panel deliberated for less than a day before finding in favor of Equinox Holdings Inc. and the masseuse, 51-year-old Derek Mallard, and against 41-year-old Susan Bracken.
Bracken’s lawsuit was filed in August 2017, alleging sexual harassment, battery and wrongful termination. Bracken said she was fired by Equinox managing agents in New York after she took a lengthy leave of absence to get counseling for her ordeal, even though local human resources employees knew the decision could clash with California law.
But Equinox attorney Thomas Mackey argued the firing was justified because Bracken kept asking for extensions of her leave that seemed to have no end.
According to her court papers, Bracken is a career dancer who had taught Pilates for nine years. She moved to California in 2013 and began working at Equinox’s West Hollywood club the next year.
Bracken said she had previous massages with Mallard that were routine. But she said that after the alleged inappropriate touching she endured on Sept. 3, 2016, she became anxious about the well-being of other co-workers who also had been receiving his services.
“I was really worried for their safety,” Bracken said.
Instead of sharing her concerns, Equinox management told her not to contact anyone about what had happened to her, Bracken alleged.
She said the experience took an emotional toll on her and that she began having panic attacks.
Mallard denied Bracken’s allegations, testifying that they made him upset.
“When somebody tells a lie on you, you get angry,” he said.
Mallard said he was hired by Equinox in 2012 and left four years later.
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