NJ Board of Massage proposes new rules to increase oversight

NEWARK, NJ — Against the backdrop of growing public concern about sexual misconduct in the massage therapy industry, N.J. Attorney Gen. Gurbir S. Grewal and the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs announced July 16 that the State Board of Massage and Bodywork Therapy has revoked the licenses of five massage therapists for alleged inappropriate sexual contact with clients and has proposed new rules to help prevent and detect sexual misconduct in the industry.

This issue has clearly spread to Maplewood, as well. On July 10, the Maplewood Police Department conducted an undercover investigation at TWC Health Club, located at 2168 Millburn Ave., Suite 206, according to a press release from the department. This investigation stemmed from numerous complaints from the public about possible prostitution and human trafficking at the business. At approximately 7:30 p.m., an undercover Maplewood officer entered the establishment and was propositioned with sexual acts in exchange for monetary funds, according to the release. As a result, one man was arrested and charged with promoting prostitution and one woman was arrested and charged with prostitution for monetary funds. These charges are merely accusations. Suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

“New Jersey has zero tolerance for massage therapists who engage in sexual contact with their clients during massage therapy sessions,” Grewal said. “We are revoking the licenses of massage therapists who violate the rules, but we aren’t stopping there. We also are taking action to strengthen the rules to increase protections for clients and to allow us to intervene more quickly when sexual misconduct is suspected.”

The proposed rules would, among other things:

  • Require massage therapists to notify the board of criminal, civil, administrative, and employment actions against them. Every licensee would be required to notify the board within 10 days of action against the licensee by criminal authorities, including an arrest, indictment or conviction; within 10 days of the licensee being named in a civil, criminal or administrative proceeding involving misconduct relating to his or her practice; within 10 days of disciplinary action by any state licensing authority; and within 10 days of action against the licensee by an employer based on client care concerns.
  • Require massage therapists to report misconduct by others. Every licensee would be required to report any incident or series of incidents that the licensee believes to violate the applicable statutes and rules, including violations by other massage therapists of the rules relating to sexual misconduct. Additional reporting requirements would apply if a licensee possesses information indicating that another licensee or health care professional presents an imminent danger to the public or any individual.
  • Protect minors from abuse. For clients under the age of 18, licensees would need to obtain written consent of the client’s parent or legal guardian before providing massage or bodywork services. For clients under the age of 16, the client’s parent or legal guardian would need to be in the room while the services are provided.

“As the actions announced today demonstrate, we are committed to protecting New Jersey consumers from predatory conduct and abuse at the hands of massage therapists,” said Paul R. Rodriguez, acting director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “We will maintain vigilant oversight of our licensees to preserve the professional integrity of our massage therapy industry and ensure that clients are treated with the respect and dignity they expect and deserve.”

Patients who believe they have been treated by a licensed massage therapist in an inappropriate manner can file a complaint online by visiting the State Division of Consumer Affairs website at https://www.njconsumeraffairs.gov/Pages/File-a-Complaint-old.aspx or by calling 1-800-242-5846 or 973-504-6200.