May 7, 2014 8:04 AM by Elizabeth Hill

Unlicensed massage establishments going mostly unchecked

"If someone doesn't have a license and they're doing massage therapy for compensation then they're operating outside the law."

The Louisiana Board of Massage Therapy regulates massage therapists and establishments, but chairperson Mary Donker- Syvertsen says the board's authority is limited.

"Our job and our requirements are and our jurisdiction is to regulate licensed massage therapists and licensed establishments."

By law, in order for a business to use the word massage in their advertising, they must be licensed by the state. A license is also required if they employ more than one person that does the massages.

Those massage therapists must also individually be licensed, which requires training, passing a national exam, annual continuing education and a background check.

Finally all licenses must be posted in public view.

But what about places offering massages without a license?

I went to several places that advertised massages, but didn't show up as a licensed massage establishment on the state's website.

When I asked for a license they would show me their occupancy certification, as well as a training certificate, but they couldn't produce the state license which is supposed to be posted.

When we pressed further we were referred to owners who weren't present.

"If someone runs a red light and breaks the law then it's up to the police to give them a ticket. If someone is operating outside of the law, if they don't have a license then it's up to the police to pursue an arrest for criminal activity."

Both the police department and state licensing board say they only investigate businesses that may be acting illegally if a complaint is filed.

There is no door-to-door compliance check unless the business already does have a license.

This leaves those operating with no license unmonitored unless someone reports them.

"We really want the public to come and file complaints we want to know about this so we can protect the public within our authority."

It's important to note massage establishments are one of countless industries that rely on complaints filed to make sure all their paperwork and licenses are in order.

You'll see the same enforcement done for bars selling to minors or plumbers without certifications, but it all hinges on that tip being given to officials.

Donker-Syvertsen says this is a matter of resources.

"We have three staff members and seven board members who all have their own practice.

If the board does get a complaint they can choose to investigate, send a cease and desist letter and notify local law enforcement.

If the business or therapist does not comply, the board can seek an injunction and police can charge violators with a misdemeanor.

Besides being illegal, there are other health risks if your therapist isn't trained.

To see if your massage therapy spa is licensed you can click here to find a complete list on the state's website.



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