Florida Bills Impacting Massage Therapists and Businesses

Legislators in Florida are considering two similar bills impacting massage therapists (MTs) and massage establishments—Senate Bill 540 (SB540) and House Bill 851 (HB851). Both bills are an effort by lawmakers to combat human trafficking. You can view the letter we sent legislators here.

SB540 requires the following of massage establishments: develop and conduct training on human trafficking identification and reporting to all massage therapists and staff who interact with clients; create a procedure for reporting suspected human trafficking violations to the National Human Trafficking Hotline or local law enforcement; and post the business's procedures for reporting violations in a conspicuous place. The human trafficking training needs to be approved by the state. The bill states no legal action will be taken against businesses who comply with the above provisions if an employee fails to "prevent, detect, or report suspected human trafficking." If the bill becomes law, it goes into effect January 1, 2021.

HB851 requires licensed and certified massage therapists to complete a one-hour continuing education course on human trafficking. Additionally, all massage "licensees or certificate holders" must post a human trafficking sign in a visible location that is in English and Spanish. Currently, Florida law already requires this notice be posted at massage establishments that are owned by someone who is not a licensed massage therapist. 

Additionally, the bill adds the definition of a "designated establishment manager" as a licensed massage therapist. Every massage establishment is required to have a designated manager and this person needs to be communicated to the state.

Our Position:

ABMP agrees that human trafficking is a serious problem in Florida and we support efforts to combat these horrific activities. We have concerns with the employee training being developed by establishment owners, rather the training should be developed by the state and disseminated to businesses. This bill puts a burden on massage establishments who are probably not experts on human or labor trafficking, and who are not able to identify and train employees on the subject matter. We are also opposed to the requirement in HB851 that each business have a "designated establishment manager" who is a licensed massage therapist. Not all managers of establishments should have to be a massage therapist; some businesses with more employees need a business manager rather than a massage therapist. We recommend that the bill be revised to remove the requirement the manager be a licensed practitioner. A manager can still have liability for what is happening in a massage business without being a therapist.

We recommend Florida law enforcement, human trafficking taskforces, in conjunction with the Florida Board of Massage Therapy, develop training and resources on human trafficking. In addition, we suggest that the legislature consider creating strong criminal penalties for managers and owners who hire unlicensed individuals to perform massage. We also recommend that landlords have criminal penalties for leasing property to illicit activities. Criminally penalizing those responsible for allowing illicit activity will, in our opinion, have a bigger impact on human trafficking than having law-abiding licensed massage therapists bear the burden of addressing human trafficking. 

Who to Contact:

HB851 is sponsored by Representative Heather Fitzenhagen and 15 co-sponsors. It was approved by the House of Representatives and is currently in the Senate with the Criminal Justice committee under the leadership of Senators Keith Perry and Jeff Brandes and with the Appropriations committee under the leadership of Senators Rob Bradley and Wilton Simpson for consideration and voting. This bill has a chance of passing through the legislature and becoming law.

SB540 is sponsored by Senator Lauren Book and co-sponsored by Senator Lori Berman. It is currently with the senate committee on Appropriations under the leadership of Senators Rob Bradley and Wilton Simpson. The bill has not moved out of this committee and is unlikely to pass through the legislature and become Florida law.

If you want to comment on these bills we recommend you contact your senator and representative (you can find them here), all bill sponsors and co-sponsors, and leadership of the Appropriations and Criminal Justice committees. The Florida legislative session ends on May 3. We recommend you contact the legislators no later than May 3.