For a massage therapist, an allegation of inappropriate touching can be career-ending. A Scottsdale, Arizona, massage therapist recently experienced this reality firsthand when a woman filed a complaint accusing him of inappropriately touching her during a session.
News outlets reported that the massage therapist voluntarily surrendered his license as part of a deal negotiated with the licensing board. He denied the allegations of inappropriate touching, but he admitted that he had been operating with an expired license at the time of the alleged incident, renewing his license shortly after. As part of his arrangement, his voluntary surrender counts as a disciplinary action, but on the grounds of operating without a license rather than for the alleged inappropriate touching.
Physical Contact Can Be a Breeding Ground for Misconduct Accusations
One important takeaway from this story is the fact that licensed professionals whose jobs involve lots of physical contact with their patients/clients can be highly vulnerable to an accusation. (Examples of such professions include physical therapists, physicians, nurses, and others.) Massage therapists can be particularly susceptible because of the intimate nature of the services they provide. Because people's responses to physical touch can be so subjective, it can be very easy for a client to misread a massage therapist's intentions, even if the touch was nowhere near an intimate area.
The other factor to consider is that state licensing boards lean toward protecting the public rather than their licensees. Most such boards, in fact, can issue disciplinary actions based only on a preponderance of the evidence, rather than conclusive proof that an inappropriate action occurred. This, too, can make the physical professions vulnerable to misunderstanding and unfair disciplinary actions.
Protecting Yourself Against Allegations of Misconduct
While anyone can level an unfounded accusation, massage therapists and other professionals must take all necessary precautions to reduce those risks. This includes not only adhering to professional standards, but also keeping up-to-date licenses and staying abreast of any local or state regulations that may apply. Some common-sense tips that can help:
- Document everything. Keep detailed logs of every client visit--i.e., when they arrived/left, what service you provided, the time, etc. Doing so won't always conclusively disprove accusations, but it will provide a factual backdrop that an attorney can use to identify discrepancies in an accuser's testimony.
- Obtain clear consent for every procedure. Make sure the client knows what you're doing, where you're touching them, and why--and make sure you have their consent.
- Avoid unnecessary exposure. Make sure all sensitive areas remain covered at all times.
- Advise the client they have the right to end the session. Make sure the client knows they can speak up anytime they feel uncomfortable, and that they can end the session at any time.
Legal Help for Those Accused of Misconduct
If you're a massage therapist or other professional accused of inappropriate touching or other forms of misconduct, you should take the accusation seriously--because your licensing board certainly will. Hiring an experienced license defense attorney at the first sign of trouble can go a long way to protecting your license and your career. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has nationwide experience in disciplinary issues, and he and his Professional License Defense Team can work to ensure the most favorable possible outcome. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 today or schedule a consultation online.