Tag Archives: regulations

Plans, Practice and Control

It is a new world for the massage therapist, just as it is for many other personal services industries.

App companies are going whole hog into personal service. Rides, house-cleaning, errands, baby-sitters, pet-sitters, and yes, massage therapists. Where is it heading? For a big thumping collision as we struggle to define ourselves, our employers and our clients….

Oh yes, big questions. It’s going to be a bumpy ride. Hang on.

Are app companies employers? Are service providers employees or clients? Are clients users or beneficiaries? Who cares? Massage therapists care because the answers to those questions will determine how much money we make, how much we pay in taxes and how free we are to make decisions in our professional lives.control

Here’s how it shakes out: Google is an advertising service that provides therapists with a way for people seeking their services to find a provider – and leaves the rest of the transaction up to the therapists and clients.

The app services are vetting providers, setting prices, presentation, times and even setting tips. The amount of control they have means they appear to be employers, not middlemen. If a therapist wants to provide more or charge more, they are not able to.

A therapist is not an independent provider of service when someone else sets the price and pay. If a therapist is not independent, then basic labor laws about employees apply.

The bottom line for therapists is that it is all about control. Control of prices, providers and policies such as tipping makes apps employers. That means the app gets to pay a lot more money in taxes for Social Security, payroll, disability, etc. that would otherwise be paid by the therapists.

There’s been some talk that the new services may yield a new classification of worker – the dependent contractor. That’s where the therapist would be a service provider who would pay less in taxes in exchange for less control. But will the apps pay the taxes? And pay for the benefits? Stay tuned.

In the interim, the people who may be the biggest targets are small businesses who have called their employees independent contractors to avoid higher costs. If the apps can’t have independent contractors, then spas and clinics can’t either. That will make major changes in the way multiple-therapist businesses operate.

Meanwhile, a massage therapist’s best bet remains Google or the other online search providers. People looking for a massage can find you in an efficient way. If they do not want your services, or don’t want to pay your price, they will find someone else who better matches their needs.



Another Kind of Business, Not Massage

Well, California can once again be accused of being different and difficult. It’s a land of fruits and nuts, yurts and yogurt, movie stars and serial killers. And one of the oddest hybrid massage licensing laws ever.

First, after a long-fought battle mostly amongst ourselves, the California licensing law isn’t a license, it’s a voluntary certification designation. And required education hours are set quite low, at 250 and 500, in deference to our economy and our quaint three-states-in-one political climate.

In Southern California where I practice many cities require close to 1,000 hours for licensing, and some require the higher hours plus national examinations. Further still, some require all that and add on their own exam and a long, expensive application process. Once obtained, the licenses have all kinds of interesting practice restrictions from “no glutes” (try skipping those on people with low back pain) to specifying the wattage of room lighting (Sixty watts can feel like a night baseball game to someone with a migraine.)

As you may suspect, the Southern California cities are trying to regulate another kind of business, not massage, that involves touching clients.

Up north in the other California, education minimums are less arduous, and in some cases not required. Our northern folks, much more civilized that they are, feel quite happy with 100 hours or two for good if basic rub. The great in-between, the valley where the fruits and nuts are grown alongside with the politicians, is a hop-scotch of regulations.

When I went to the Long Beach police station get a license in 1996, I had to hold up a chalkboard sign in front of me with my name and application number while a policeman took my pictures, front and side. I love the idea that we are finally getting away from city-by-city funhouse of regulations.Yip Yip Hooray.

But at the same time I must say that the California certification agency, which began taking applications in August, is a little too easy on education. Figure a good massage therapist needs to know more than Swedish and basic contraindications. And long haul in mind, shouldn’t it take a few months of teachers yelling in your ear to learn proper body mechanics? (OK. It did me. My mechanics are not perfect, but I’ve been massaging for almost 15 years, thanks to a deafening stream of Portuguese exclamations.)

Increasing hours, of course, would put a crimp in the big spas and resorts, who try to juggle big overheads by keeping labor costs low. Keeping required hours down helps ensure a good labor pool of recent graduates for the big players. Unfortunately, requiring less education also makes it easier for those in another kind of business, not massage, to operate.

I would like to think of massage as more of a therapeutic profession-in-the-making, heading say, for the education level of a vocational nurse as opposed to a certified nursing assistant. I say that, of course, knowing I have the hours already and such a requirement would force a lot of experienced therapists who haven’t taken certified hours back to the classroom.

As the California Massage Therapy Council bravely tries to herd all of us cats, I can say that as diverse as Californians are, at least we are on the brink of a high hill. Soon I can work wearing a V-neck scrub shirt without being in violation of my city’s cleavage regulation.