CHICAGO — Two women who accused a massage therapist of sexually abusing them during treatments at a Chicago luxury hotel spa have received settlements totaling $2.2 million, according to a press release from the law firm that represented them.
The Chuan Spa at the Langham Hotel Chicago, 330 North Wabash, hired Joseph Mitchell even though he had been fired from two other massage jobs due to complaints about sexual behavior, the firm said. The Langham “ignored the prior complaints of sexual assault [by] continuing to employ Mitchell and even rehiring him after firing him due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to the press release.
Prosecutors charged Mitchell, 32, with criminal sexual assault and sexual abuse in connection with the Chuan Spa allegations in June 2021. The cases are still pending, with the next court date slated for August 8, court records show.
The women and a group of coworkers were in Chicago from Tennessee to celebrate with a client when they went to the Langham’s spa for services in September 2020, prosecutors said.
One of the women, 42, planned the trip and arranged for everyone to enjoy a spa day at the Chuan Spa.
She told Chicago police that a therapist who identified himself as “Joseph” rubbed mud on her private areas with his bare hands without consent. She later drifted in and out of sleep during a massage, prosecutors said, but she remembered feeling the therapist touch her private areas and woke up on her back, uncovered and exposed, prosecutors said.
The other woman, 34, reported Mitchell reaching under a towel covering her private areas and using his hands during her mud wrap and massage. Hotel and spa policy requires therapists to use a brush during the mud treatment, as is customary, prosecutors said.
Both women quickly shared their experiences with others, and they reported the allegations to the hotel about a week later, officials said. The hotel confronted Mitchell and fired him.
Chicago police detectives learned that a woman made similar allegations against Mitchell when he worked as a massage therapist at a high-end fitness club downtown, prosecutors said. They said he was also accused of touching a female coworker inappropriately while they were applying for jobs at a massage service chain.
The women’s law firm said the businesses were the East Bank Club and Massage Envy.
During Mitchell’s initial bail hearing two years ago, private defense attorney Mike Gillespie said the criminal charges were filed after Mitchell was served with a civil suit regarding the allegations, and he did not respond to requests for monetary compensation. Mitchell has two children and “absolutely no criminal background,” Gillespie said.
Attorneys for Power Rogers LLP represented the women, yielding a $1.2 million settlement for one of them last week. The firm’s press release said the other woman reached a $1 million settlement last year.
Power Rogers said the Langham received an earlier sexual assault complaint against Mitchell in June 2019. A female customer called Mitchell “a predator” who went “too high on her thigh, touching her public [sic] bone, exposing her breasts, and touching her vagina,” said the firm’s statement.
“Staff apparently referred that complaint to the hotel’s Director of Human Resources, but the hotel took no action other than ‘counseling’ Mitchell on ‘how not to make clients uncomfortable,'” the firm said, citing the lawsuit.
“I want to be the voice so that other women can come out and tell their story. If you had a similar experience at the Langham, please know that we will support you and you’re not alone,” one of the women said in the statement.
The other woman encouraged other potential victims to step forward.
“There’s strength in numbers. The sooner we all stand up, the sooner the world starts changing,” the woman said. “To the Langham leadership who put us and so many others in danger: I hope your profits are worth it. I don’t know how you sleep at night.”