Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Annals of Bad Bosses--Let Me Smell Your Feet!


The excellent resource Courthouse News Service is reporting on the Massage Envy franchise owner who offered to pay female employees to "smell their feet" according to a lawsuit filed by the employees: 

Two [former Salt Lake City employees of the]  Massage Envy franchise claim their boss (not, the guy in the pic) offered them money to smell their feet. One claims that after he 'forcefully grabbed' her feet and took off her shoes, he 'sniffed them in a lustful manner.' The other woman claims franchise owner John Johnson offered her 'up to $30,000 per month' and a BMW if she would let him do it.


In a federal [lawsuit], Danielle Wade claims that Johnson told her about the obsessive-compulsive disorder he suffered as a child.

Wade claims that Johnson told her 'that when he was a child his baby-sitter would 'check-in' with him and she would put her feet on him and have him do things for her. He stated that it would happen about three times per week and he would pay her. Mr. Johnson indicated he paid her $50 and that it increased as he got older.'
Wade claims that Johnson told her 'that he wanted her to 'check-in' with him and that he would pay her each time. He told her that she would make up to $30,000 per month,' according to the complaint. The complaint continues: 'Mr. Johnson promised Ms. Wade that he would buy her a BMW automobile if she complied with his gestures. Mr. Johnson further told Ms. Wade he would sign a document indicating he would pay her for her the services.'

Wade says she refused. However, she says, Johnson then told her to 'come into his office to talk with him. Once in the office, Mr. Johnson proceeded to lie down on the floor and removed Ms. Wade's boots and said he wanted to massage her feet and smell them. Ms. Wade objected and put her boots back on and left his office. Ms. Wade was in shock, and shaking as she left Mr. Johnson's office.'

Co-plaintiff Odette Provost's allegations are more alarming.

Provost claims that Johnson invited her into his office, and that 'once in the office, Mr. Johnson sat on the floor and began describing a childhood experience to Ms. Provost. He stated his sister's friend did things to him that made him her slave.

'Mr. Johnson then forcefully grabbed Ms. Provost's feet and proceeded to take off Ms. Provost's shoes. Ms. Provost objected to the assault, stating that he was 'weird' and that her feet stunk. 'Mr. Johnson stated that he enjoyed when her feet stunk and that it just made him more of a slave to her. Mr. Johnson proceeded to rub Ms. Provost's feet over his face and sniffed them in a lustful manner.  Ms. Provost was in shock and frightened during the incident and could not run away. 'Mr. Johnson told Ms. Provost 'not to say anything to anyone. Mr. Johnson then wrote Ms. Provost a check for $100. Mr. Johnson did not state what the check was for. Ms. Provost felt ashamed, frightened, and humiliated.'

Then, Provost claims, it happened again.

According to the complaint: 'Mr. Johnson asked Ms. Provost if she was available for some training in his office.

'Once in the office, they began discussing issues related to the business. Suddenly, Mr. Johnson jumped to the floor, removed Ms. Provost's shoes, and started sniffing and rubbing her feet over his face.

'Ms. Provost was frightened and told him to stop. Mr. Johnson stopped and left the office. These incidents created a hostile work environment for Ms. Provost as she could not predict when Mr. Johnson would attack her again.' [. . .]

The first historical mention of foot fetishism in the West was by Bertold of Regensburg (1220-1272), an itinerant Franciscan preacher, according to the 1998 article in Psychological Reports: 'Sexualization of the Female Foot as a Response to Sexually Transmitted Epidemics: a preliminary study.'  Its authors claimed that foot fetishism may have been a 'safe-sex' response to epidemics of venereal disease. Critics of the study, however, maintained that the alleged outbreaks of foot fetishism may have occurred with, or in reaction to, steps toward the emancipation of women. Sigmund Freud, however, considered Chinese foot-binding a form of fetish. If so - and the argument pretty much makes itself - it would be another incidence of a Chinese discovery - or whatever you want to call it - predating the West."
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Strange as it sounds, my former partner, Nancy, and I encountered situations that weren't that dissimilar to this scenario over the years.  Frankly, I'm convinced that the perpetrators of these bizarre things rely on the utter strangeness as camouflage for their exploitation.  In one case we represented a former convent school student whose priest-therapist would sit on the floor and massage and kiss her feet whioe she was supposedly obtaining "talk therapy,"  During discovery, he proffered a character witness, the former Dean of women, a Nun,  at the local school who when confronted by us in deposition admitted she had had a lesbian affair with our client the plaintiff.  Sometimes what seems surreal, is real.

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