NEWARK, NJ – Against the backdrop of growing public concern about sexual misconduct in the massage therapy industry, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs announced Tuesday 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.
“New Jersey has zero tolerance for massage therapists who engage in sexual contact with their clients during massage therapy sessions,” said Attorney General Grewal. “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, published in the NJ Register Monday, 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 possess information indicating that another licensee or healthcare 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. Rodríguez, Acting Direction 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.”
Since January, the Board has permanently revoked the licenses of five massage therapists in connection with allegations of sexual misconduct on the job. They are:
- Matthew Plotkin, whose license was revoked last month after he pleaded guilty to criminal sexual contact with a client during a massage therapy session at the Hand and Stone Spa in Allendale in March.
- Jacob Robinson, whose license was permanently revoked in March after he pleaded guilty to two counts of criminal sexual contact with a client during a massage therapy session in December 2018.
- Jose Calderon, whose license was permanently revoked in March for allegedly inappropriately touching a client during a message therapy session at the Body Positive Works in Saddle River in September 2018.
- Sean Pasculli, whose license was permanently revoked in March for allegedly inappropriately touching a client during a massage therapy session at Suzi’s Salon and Spa in Morristown in May 2017.
- Leo Rodriguez, whose license was permanently revoked in January for allegedly inappropriately touching a client during a massage therapy session at Body Balance Massage & Skincare in Hoboken in December 2016.
Last year, the Board disciplined 12 licensees for alleged inappropriate sexual contact with clients – permanently revoking the licenses of eight of massage therapists and filing orders of temporary or provisional suspensions against our others.
The new rules proposed for massage therapists are subject to public comment. The proposed rules and information on how to submit a comment by September 13, can be viewed here.
Patients who believe that they have been treated by a licensed massage therapist in an inappropriate manner can file can a complaint online by visiting the State Division of Consumer Affairs website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 or 973-504- 6200.