A former Equinox masseur testified Monday that a Pilates instructor lied when she accused him of touching her in a sexual way while giving her a massage at the West Hollywood health club in 2016.
Derek Mallard, 51, told the Los Angeles Superior Court jury that 41-year-old Susan Bracken’s accusation left him upset.
“When somebody tells a lie on you, you get angry,” Mallard said.
Mallard and Equinox Holdings Inc. are both named as defendants in Bracken’s lawsuit, which was filed in August 2017, alleging sexual harassment, battery, and wrongful termination. Bracken 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, the complaint alleges.
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, which is located at 8950 Sunset Blvd., the next year.
Bracken was a good employee who was well-liked by her co-workers and Equinox members and was promoted to senior Pilates instructor, according to her court papers. During her employment, she says she was referred to Mallard for massage therapy and began trading services with him.
“She liked Mallard and began referring her Pilates clients to him,” her court papers say. “Mallard was very generous with giving massages to Ms. Bracken and would frequently offer to give them to her as a thank you for sending clients to him.”
But the massage Bracken received from Mallard on Sept. 3, 2016, was different, according to her court papers.
“Mallard began massaging Ms. Bracken and she noticed he was pushing on her much harder than usual, to the point of being painful,” the suit alleges. “Ms. Bracken told Mallard he was hurting her. He dismissed her complaint and told that she had a lot of tension.”
After Mallard began “pushing the boundary,” Bracken maintains she got up and got dressed.
But in his testimony, Mallard said the deep-tissue massage session ended with a show of gratitude by Bracken.
“She thanked me,” he said.
Mallard said he was surprised when management questioned him about the massage a few days later because Bracken never gave any indication she was uncomfortable during the session. He said he did not have any romantic interest in Bracken.
Mallard said he was hired by Equinox in 2012 and left four years later.