Victims Speak Out – Massage Therapy: “Under Fire”

The massage therapy industry is under fire in Las Vegas.

So, what else is new?  “Sin City” has a reputation for providing The Unscrupulous ways to satisfy their deep, dark desires, whims, and habits.  Massage Therapy is used as the face of some less-than-virtuous ways of enjoying what the City of Las Vegas, its surrounding wildlife and lands, and neon culture have to offer.  Massage Therapy, as an industry and a profession, is again, based on the public response from KTNV’s “Contact 13 Investigates” story about questionable corporate practices at Las Vegas Valley Massage Envy locations, defending itself against a negative public perception.  The story ran first on May 1, 2014, during their live action newscast, part of a Series presentation called “When Massage Becomes Misconduct”, focusing on Las Vegas Valley Massage Envys.

Watch this video, then please continue reading140501 KTNV Contact 13 story

 

Before I try to address what is really going on in the publication of this story, please know:  I am not and haven’t been an employee of or investor in Massage Envy.  I am not a representative for any law enforcement agency.  I do not know any of “the players” in this story.  But I am a concerned citizen – for the rights of potential and the alleged victims in this story.  I am also a pro-active Massage Therapy professional and Nevada State Board of Massage Therapists-licensed massage therapist (NVMT.103).  Oh: and I have an opinion, with some solution.

Please allow me to make some distinctions via definition for some of the terms I will use here:

  • Company – Massage Establishment
  • LMT – NSBMT-licensed Massage Practitioner
  • Complaining Client – customer who lodges a service complaint with a Company
  • Accusing Client – massage recipient/client who files/has filed criminal or civil charges against an LMT

I think, in our industry especially, any company that receives an first-time complaint against an employee LMT should investigate it internally and Play It Safe. There is no “report of criminal activity” by the company because they are not the Victim nor is there a law (that I am aware of) that requires employer to report “suspect LMTs” to the Business License Department, but I think Massage Envy [ME] has a franchise policy of “zero tolerance” for their employees already. Yes, the LMT/employee may not get the benefit of any doubt as to the veracity of the complaint…and that is another issue [if they are terminated over a complaint]: one the LMT would take up with an complaining client in a civil case. If the complaining client (based on the legally-consequential nature of the complaint), after being advised by the company of their options (in writing, too) to report the alleged ‘complaint’ additionally as a crime committed by the LMT, chooses NOT to pursue legal action, then the company is not legally bound to report the criminal act because they are not the victim. If the complaining client pursues criminal accusation and the LMT is convicted of a crime, then the company has ‘no choice’ (in my head) but to terminate employment (and according to their own company policy) – they, themselves, cannot pursue a criminal case against the LMT. Without a registered client accusation, This is a civil case. If (a franchisee of) ME is found to be negligent, then it is also a civil case.

The company may, but IMHO not successfully, pursue a civil action against the convicted LMT if libel or defamation of reputation is incurred by the company. Who knows? Maybe that is what we hope can be established…but not until fair notice and counseling for employment is documented. Apparently, ME as a franchiser has a “Zero Tolerance” policy, which is a great statement, but they seem to not be living up to it at the news-story-targeted locations. Sometimes, news stories like these will put the franchisees under investigation by the company (Franchiser) and they may lose their franchise if not following contracted agreement, but the franchisee will not be responsible for a single LMT’s actions. I suspect that the franchisee will take the entire responsibility/consequence for re-employing, with documented counseling of the LMT prior, but ME’s lack of organizational oversight (because maybe there is a lack of network information for the re-employing franchisee) may be where the blame is set, finally. Again, This is a civil case.

If the company does not Play It Safe and counsel effectively OR terminate, the company becomes at risk for the accused LMT to be accused again. They cannot announce to every subsequent client that the LMT they are about to get a massage from has been accused (or complained against by another client) of criminal behavior – it is not their responsibility to announce an alleged perpetrator if they continue to employ a “suspect”. It is not the company’s responsibility when an LMT commits crimes – that is why we have a board for Massage Therapists, not Massage Establishments (and their owners) – if Nevada did, then the MEs featured in this story would be under investigation by the NSBMT (…for hiring/employment practices? that’s more likely an SOS function…). Massage Envy is one of the last places anyone expects to find criminals, which is why this story is so interesting – it’s the patrons and professionals that have conspiracy-theory attitudes that fuel the publicity derived from the fear developed in the telling of this story.

We all tend to like to be judges – we have seen the limited, edited testimony of the alleged victims…in the agendized new story. We all tend to want to convict the accused and alleged LMT(s) in the court of public opinion. But it remains to be seen that the LMT(s) are guilty, and that is only done by investigation and hearing/trial, and That isonly done if/when a criminal case is opened by the victims. This story is an example of civil unrest – and one certain way to resolve it to, again, show the public that companies are responsible, for the public’s sake and in my opinion, is to have ME conduct an internal investigation and publish its result(s)…and probably get a follow-up story done by the news station. 

Establishing that the LMTs in question are criminals is the key – complaints will take those victims nowhere, accusations will.


 

Here are some steps (but may not include all) in how to get the ball rolling for avoiding or accusing a perpetrator that violates professional and business massage therapy laws:

Before an Incident:

  1. Use a reputable company’s/organization’s Referral System for Finding A Massage Therapist, if you are starting from scratch: [for National searches: (use AMTA) (use ABMP) (use NCBTMB) (use Better Business Bureau)]  [for review-based searches: (use Yelp) (use TripAdvisor) (use Angie’s List)]
  2. Check the license status of a Licensed Massage Therapist in Nevada at the Nevada State Board of Massage Therapists – “Active” means the Licensee is registered and legally-allowed and -qualified to practice massage therapy.
  3. Use a search engine* to “research” your Licensed Massage Therapist; discover more about your LMT than just a license number:  is their advertising consistent, therapeutic in nature, and do their goals as your practitioner match your therapeutic goals by getting a massage?  (use Google) (use Bing)
  4. Contact and interview your Licensed Massage Therapist by phone prior to your massage therapy session.
*your search engine’s settings will determine individual results

During an Incident:

  • Yell out for help,
  • Exit the room or get out of range of the perpetrator,
  • Call 9-1-1

After an Incident:

Read the Nevada Revised Statute (laws) and Nevada Administrative Codes regarding regulation and rules for behavior for Licensed Massage Therapists;

  • If you believe the offending LMT has broken a professional license/regulatory law, fill out this Complaint Form at the Nevada State Board of Massage Therapists website.

Additionally, If you believe the offending LMT has broken a jurisdictional/criminal law (some NV jurisdictions’ websites), call the police non-emergency line (3-1-1 OR (702) 828-3111) and/or go into a police station (map) to file your report.


In my opinion, this story just puts the “news” spotlight on a wrongly-intended outcome – will raking ME over the coals stop or greatly reduce the number of sexual assault victims in the industry and profession? Maybe in the organization of ME, and that can be our first stand: to establish and support well-known, public companies that represent the industry/profession. I think ME is doing a fine job of being that face for massage therapy professionals, in spite of what a news outlet reports: only one side of the story so far.

The integrity of all massage therapists is not at stake or at risk, unless we falter and don’t believe what we are doing helps people, our clients/patients. The profession is tarnished and a company is cracked with this news story, but shining & repair is inevitable if we all are to survive an unwitting blow to our reputations as facilitators of health. Regaining trust and re-establishing confidence can only be accomplished by maintaining the strict line of therapeutic relationship and practicing (sometimes more noticeably [, now]) the ethics and standards of practice that the public (and professionals, alike) recognize as constitutional and trustworthy. Helping our clients understand what to do in a situation like these victims may have experienced is one of the best ways to communicate that we, each one of us that educates in this fashion, are NOT “those LMTs”. Here are some ways to hold the line:

  • Making public statements against crimes that are known to be and are regularly publicized and associated with our profession/industry is a very good thing
  • Allying, as a massage therapy professional/business, with organizations whose agendas refute and take action against prostitution (in SoNV, especially) and human trafficking
  • Using pro-therapeutic and legally-required verbiage in our advertisements,
  • Following the law(s) explicitly regarding scope and jurisdictional practices,

These are all ways we can regain the trust of our clients and never lose our integrity.

HIPAA On the Horizon

Client safety and confidentiality the intent of HIPAA – improves alternative health care industry

If you’ve ever thought twice about filling out a health questionnaire that your massage or bodywork practitioner has asked you to complete, you are not alone. It is within the scope of a Practitioner to ask questions about your health in order to provide you with the best service possible – safeguarding your state of health, knowing and practicing the contraindications for you and the bodywork you are receiving, and preventing any complications in providing that service. With rising fraud crimes and use of electronic filing systems, it is a valid concern of the Client and Practitioner that information can be misplaced, mishandled, and miscommunicated.

In 2003, the healthcare industry adopted a government standard for getting and keeping your personal health information for purposes of practicing medicine and filing insurance claims. It is named HIPAA: the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. HIPAA has three major purposes:

  1. To protect and enhance the rights of consumers by providing them access to their health information and controlling the inappropriate use of that information;
  2. To improve the quality of healthcare in the United States by restoring trust in the healthcare system among consumers, healthcare professionals and the multitude of organizations and individuals committed to the delivery of care; and
  3. To improve the efficiency and effectiveness of healthcare delivery by creating a national framework for health privacy protection that builds on efforts by states, health systems, individual organizations and individuals.

Bodyworkers and Clients alike will be satisfied to know that the HIPAA law in place today protects the Protected Health Information (PHI) of the Client in every aspect of the healthcare information-gathering process when insurance claims are filed with companies such as BlueCross and BlueShield.

At this time, compliance is not mandatory for Bodyworkers in the industry of Alternative Healthcare (unless the information is used in an insurance claim situation), but many Information Technology systems are developing in order to accommodate the eventual governmental requirement. If you didn’t know already, currently it is industry-standard to get a written release form from the Client in order for the Practitioner to give or receive health record information from the Client’s doctor.

Look in the near future for your practitioner to have HIPAA information and compliant forms with his or her intake form to assure you that your information is handled with the level of concern and confidentiality it deserves.