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Lawsuit of the Day: CEO Tried to Seduce Her on His “Magic Couch,” Woman Claims in Sex Suit

from www.onpointnews.com – A former charity worker may be pushing the limits of sexual harassment law by alleging that her boss required her to participate in “relaxation sessions” on his “magic couch” during which he hypnotized and molested her.

Susan Patroski’s quid pro quo harassment case hinges on what allegedly happened behind closed doors in the Pittsburgh office of the CEO of Pressley Ridge, which provides clinical services to troubled children. She sued her former employer last month after being fired from her job as benefits coordinator.

“[O]n a frequent basis over the course of approximately a year” starting in December 2008, she alleges in her complaint, B. Scott Finnell “purported to treat Patroski for ‘stress’ with a ‘relaxation technique,’ which was in fact hypnosis.”

While hypnotized, the lawsuit says, “Finnell stroked Patroski’s breasts, and repeatedly brought her to orgasm, utilizing the hypnotic suggestion that he would slowly count to five, and when he reached five, she would experience a rush of pleasure.”

Patroski says she did not remember what happened during these sessions until she began having flashbacks in December 2009. Her $5 million suit alleges quid pro quo harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which “occurs whenever an individual explicitly or implicitly conditions a job, a job benefit, or the absence of a job detriment, upon an employee’s acceptance of sexual conduct.”

“Patroski was required to participate in the ‘relaxation sessions’ during which she was hypnotized and sexually molested by her supervisor … as a quid pro quo for her continued employment,” she says.

After Finnell discovered she was remembering details of the sessions, Patroski says, “he moved to push her out of the organization,” culminating in her termination on June 4 — two days after she filed an EEOC complaint.

In the classic quid pro quo scenario, a supervisor extorts sexual favors from a subordinate. But Finnell’s alleged conduct doesn’t fit that model since Patroski never says he made her employment conditional on submitting to sexual advances.

The case is, at the very least, an embarrassment for Pressley Ridge and Finnell, a clinical social worker who took over as CEO in 2002. He has admitted to conducting relaxation sessions with employees, but denied using hypnosis or that he sexually assaulted any employee.

Patroski allegedly had her first relaxation session on Dec. 24, 2008 after Finnell told her “’relaxation sessions’ were necessary not merely for her own benefit, but also because he was making a relaxation compact disk for the Pressley Ridge Wellness Program. Thus, the sessions were appropriately part of her duties as a member of the Pressley Ridge Human Resources Department.”

Some commenters on the case insist that being under hypnosis would not render Patroski unable to reject Finnell’s alleged suggestions. But she says her flashbacks “included not only the ‘countdown to orgasm’ sequence” but also “being on the floor in front of Finnell, and having her head between his legs.”

Even if Patroski can somehow establish that Finell did molest her — despite having no contemporaneous recollection of what happened — it’s unclear how she can show that Finnell required her to submit to sexual advances as a quid pro quo.

The sexual misconduct allegedly occurred as a result of Patroski’s required participation in “relaxation sessions.” And the suit also says that during the period Finnell was hypnotizing her, he “repeatedly told her that she was very attractive, and requested that she accompany him to his house during the lunch hour when his wife was out.”

But Patroski does not allege there was anything implicitly or explicitly sexual in Finnell’s communications with her about the relaxation sessions.

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