North Carolina Massage Therapists New State Laws and State Board Rules Alert

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This blog post is intended to get the word out to as many NC Massage therapists as possible about the new laws passed by the NC Legislature and the new state board rules proposed to enforce the state board rules. I am doing my best to provide accurate information, but this is a blog and I would certainly encourage you to do your own research. All opinions are my own!

In October of 2017 the NC State House and Senate passed this law, that was signed by Governor Cooper. Strengthen Human Trafficking Laws/Studies.
An Act Strengthening Human Trafficking Laws, Authorizing The North Carolina Board Of Massage And Bodywork Therapy To Regulate Massage And Bodywork Therapy Establishments, Requiring Massage And Bodywork Therapists To Obtain A Statewide Privilege License, And Authorizing The Department Of Health And Human Services To Study Ways To Identify And Protect Victims Of Human Trafficking. You can read the full bill HERE.

This act requires a $50 “Art of Healing” privilege tax, in addition to our state license $100 every two years, as well as requiring many LICENSED therapists to get an establishment license at an additional cost of up to $320 plus renewals every two years. This is supposed to help prevent human trafficking. This will be over 10,000  licensed massage therapists to pay an extra $50, that is $500,000. Where does that money go? Is it going to be used to shut down illegal “massage parlors” that we have been reporting to local authorities for years? What about the establishment license fees. If half of the massage businesses in NC are required to get an establishment license (Sole practitioners are exempted more on that further down) at $300 that is $1,500,000! What will this money be used for? Will it be given to local police departments to enforce the laws? Why are the current laws not being enforced? We are required to display our licence at anywhere that we work. Will an establishment licence give local authorities the power to enforce the laws of North Carolina?

The New Rules Proposed by the North Carolina Board of Massage and Bodywork Therapy can be found HERE.  

I would encourage you to print it and read it carefully. There are BIG changes to our CE requirements, the new establishment licenses, and even the SIZE OF ROOM we can work in!

Here are a few highlights:

(d)           provide treatment rooms for massage and bodywork therapy that are least 10 feet by 12 feet in size, with a minimum of three linear feet of open floor space around all sides of the massage treatment table; and

(5)           Facility plan, including floor plans with dimensions and fixtures, uses of each room, specifications on lighting, ventilation and temperature control, location of lavatories for hand washing and toilet facilities;

(6)           Equipment list, including furniture, office equipment, and equipment used for massage and bodywork therapy treatment;

(7)           Copy of deed if establishment owns its facility, or copy of lease if establishment does not own its facility;

(8)           Copies of reports from city or county inspections for fire, safety, health, and sanitation, made within the three months prior to submission of application for approval;

(9)           Copy of city or county business license, if required; and

(10)         A completed self-evaluation inspection report demonstrating compliance with this section.

In Boone NC the Fire the inspection fee is $30. I have a call into the county health department about the Health, Sanitation and Safety inspections. Every city and county will have different fees. In addition many therapists pay for local business licences and city fees such as Raleigh’s “massagist” licence.

I spoke with Phil Thompson in Raleigh at the State Health Department about the health, safety and sanitation inspection requirement. He said that the health department does not have any directive or authority to inspect massage businesses and the State Board cannot give them such a directive. That would be a separate law, and it would take 2-3 years to pass. He also said that this requirement would be struck down by the The Rules Review Commission (RRC). A part of the Executive Branch, consists of 10 members appointed by the General Assembly, plus staff.  They review proposed rules which are submitted to them by boards and commissions and approve such rules if all criteria are met. However he did add that tattoo businesses are inspected by the health department at a cost of $500 per year.

Will the illegal “massage parlors” get these inspections and apply for an establishment license at all? I doubt it! They will just change their names to “Foot spa” or something else, leaving the law abiding massage therapists of NC paying millions of dollars more in fees and inspections. Room size, how many massage therapy businesses will be forced to close because their rooms are the wrong size? How does this stop human trafficking? I’ve worked in some pretty small rooms it certainly did not make me want to become a madame, enslave people, or screw my clients! Maybe that’s because I’m an educated licensed health care provider??

How does knowing my lighting specifications prevent human trafficking? “This lady has proper outlets, and dimmers, she is probably not buying and selling humans.” How does having a list of my furniture and equipment prevent human trafficking? The illegal business are not going to send in a report saying they have mattresses in the floor rather than massage tables……

Lastly, will forms be provided, or will we get to create our own “self evaluation inspection report” and hope that it is right? I have similar questions about the new continuing education activities, but at this point I think that needs to be another blog post entirely.

Did you know that the fine for practicing massage without a license in NC is $50? Why would anyone even care if they get busted? However if a licensed therapist is caught practicing with an expired license the fine is $2,500. I’m just pointing this out because like many things about this it just doesn’t make any sense!

One thing I have always wondered about is why our licensing fees are so high! As a dual licensed massage therapist and esthetician, I can’t see where the massage board is doing any more than the cosmetology board and yet they charge us at a rate of 10X’s compared to the cosmetology board.  The fee for a new salon license is $35 and for that fee they manage to send an inspector out. The massage board wants us to send in $300 and arrange for health, safety, sanitation, and fire inspections that we pay for as well.

Another question I have is: can local police departments and sheriffs enforce the RULES of a state board? If not (and my understanding is that they cannot), how will any of this impact human trafficking. I for one am sick and tired of being put in with the sex trade, and human slavery! I am tired of these people being allowed to hide behind our profession, and give us a bad name, but giving us more fees to pay and more paperwork to fill out will not help the women who are being trafficked.

Give local law enforcement the authority to walk into any massage business and check licenses and identification and most of these places could be shut down tomorrow! Not to mention the women that could be rescued.

What can you do? 

  1. Share this post, I am trying to get all of the information and links in one place, please help spread the word.
  2. Write your state board FROM RACHEL MANN IN NCMT FB GROUP (amta advice)
    “Reasons a rule may be rejected by the Rules commission ACCORDING TO THE BMBT WEBSITE:
    a) lack of statutory authority b) unclear or ambiguous language c) the rule is not reasonably necessary
    Any reason you can reference in your letter of objection that incorporates these factors may be helpful.”
    Elizabeth Kirk
    Charles Wilkins
    Try to get proof they received the message…via email, get a read receipt. You can use the app WhoReadMe(dot)com to get proof it was read. It’s easy.
    Are you a stamped letter person? Then mail a certified letter to:
    NC Board of Massage and Bodywork Therapy
    attn: Elizabeth Kirk, Rule Review
    PO Box 2539
    Raleigh, NC 27602
    Charles P Wilkins
    PO Box 2539
    Raleigh, NC 27602
  3. Join the North Carolina Massage Therapists Facebook Group to stay involved, informed and updated.
  4. Attend the State Board Meeting in Raleigh on April 19: Information on Board Meetings:
  5. Sign this petition and share it
  6. Contact your local paper and news stations about the impact these laws will have on our small businesses.
  7. Share any news stories that you can find like this one
  8. Let me know in the comments if you have additional information!

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. mitchell mosher

    There have been at least 3 happy ending massage places in Gastonis over the years. None of them shut down. A local massage therapist send a client who is a police office to check one of them out. He did, and now he is regular there.

  2. Linda in Asheville

    Thank you, Gael Wood. I’m late in getting focused on all this, didn’t know how abysmal & bizarre it all turned out to be. I had a very difficult year last year, and will try to spread this around & get myself and others involved.

    We’ve been battling ignorant & detrimental stereotypes in our profession for way too many decades. The younger therapists in my area think I’m crazy & “hung up”, “old & out of touch” or “fear-based” when I try and explain any of this to them, even in my even handed, sensible ways.

    I also suspect these are mostly disingenuous laws etc, intentionally using the ostensible issue of human trafficking as a cover for the simple & reprehensible act of sucking every dollar the various authorities can possibly squeeze from us. Our massage board at its highest levels may well be to blame. And everyone in that sector think of us as prosperous cash cows, while we’re all barely able to survive & continue in our line of work, bc we love doing it & we care.

  3. Karen

    I completely agree with you Gael! Thank you so much for the detailed information!

  4. Ginger S.

    It’s not just happening in NC. I am a WA state LMP and Esthetician and the fees here have also gone through the roof! I love the comment Mitchell Mosher sent. HAH!! You’ll never get rid of prostitution as it’s one of the oldest and most ancient of occupations. Not to mention that there IS a market for it. Supply and demand my friends!! As far as human trafficking goes..good luck with wiping that out as well. All of these BS licensing fees and extra taxes are just a scam and a way to extort money from legit businesses. If one have been to school for training then takes the time and money to do CEU’s requirements, they will not be the one doing anything illegal. I was looking at what the prospects would be for me to transfer my license from WA to NC but not now!! Oh, and by the way..Vermont struck down a law requiring licensing for LMP’s in that state because they couldn’t see any justification why one would need to be licensed since there hasn’t been enough complaints to the state in regard to impropriety on the side of the therapist. Go figure!! What many of these idiots who legislate these rules (for the higher fees) think that we are making a lot of money. They fail to take into consideration that we have overhead costs; license fees, insurance, association dues, taxes and expenses related to a legit business. That said.. one does needs to make enough money to support a business and earn a decent living. I don’t know what the going rate per hour is in NC, but here in WA it’s $100 per hour minimum (and that’s not for a specialty certification such as Cranial Sacral, or Jin Shin Do, which takes at least 1 1/2- 2 years and have a higher charge for this training). So, if you all are not charging at least $90-$100 / hour in NC then you will need to raise your rates significantly. From what I can glean from the above comments is that in NC there is virtually no incentive to even get a massage license since the fine is only $50 and probably a hand slap. And who is going to enforce the laws to keep “massage” parlors from getting business especially if is seen as only a misdemeanor, forget about a felony conviction. Hah!

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