West Virginia Increases Educational Hours and Adopts Establishment Licensure

West Virginia Governor Jim Justice signed into law Senate Bill 665 (SB 665) in late March, adjusting massage therapy educational hours and adopting massage therapy establishment licensure. ABMP summarizes the highlights of the bill for you below.

The bill adds to the definition of massage establishment to include mobile businesses and creates a new definition for sole practitioner.

Massage establishment—a place of business where massage therapy is practiced on clients with a physical site/premise or licensed mobile businesses where licensed massage therapists are employees or contractors.

Sole practitioner—a licensed massage therapist who is not an employee or contractor of the sole practitioner or establishment and who provides massage therapy to clients at a specific location, such as a rental space, home office, or an off-site or on-site space.

Massage Therapy Program Hour Requirements
On July 1, 2023, massage therapy programs must offer 625 hours of supervised academic instruction. This is an increase from the currently required 500 hours.

ABMP learned that the West Virginia Massage Therapy Licensure Board (Board) will include a grandparenting section when they draft rules this spring to work with students who will be affected by the program hour change. The Board will also address school curriculum updates and will allow schools enough time to adjust their programs until at least January 1, 2024, if not longer. Of course, this date is not guaranteed until rules are published and adopted. However, ABMP will participate in the rulemaking process to advocate for fair grandparenting and curriculum timeline provisions and will update you when we learn more.

Massage Establishments
The bill adds new sections relevant to massage establishments, including establishment applications, requirements, prohibited acts, continuing education, renewals and fees, and exemptions. A license to operate a massage establishment will be required effective October 1, 2023.

Establishment Applications
If a place of business advertises or offers massage therapy services, the business must have a massage establishment license issued by the Board. This requirement does not apply to sole practitioners. A massage establishment can only employ or enter into a contract with licensed West Virginia massage therapists who are US citizens or legal permanent residents with valid work permits. Adult-oriented businesses are not eligible for a massage establishment license from the Board and cannot operate as a massage establishment.

Each applicant for a massage establishment must:

  1. Submit a completed application.
  2. Pay the required fee.

Establishment Requirements
SB 665 requires massage establishments to post the Board-issued massage establishment license in a visible location, along with the license of each massage therapist employed by the business, and any other license required by the state. The bill requires initial consultation documents, written consent forms, session notes, and billing records of each client to be properly maintained and secured.

Establishments must document employment or contract relationships. A list of employment contracts must be available during inspections or investigations. Establishments must also maintain a current list of all employees and/or contractors. The list must contain the individual’s full name and license number and expiration date.

Establishment Prohibited Acts
The bill states that massage establishments cannot:

  • Employ or enter a contract with an individual to perform massage services if that individual is not a licensed West Virginia massage therapist.
  • Employ or enter a contract with an individual who is not a US citizen or legal resident with a valid work permit.
  • Allow a nude, or partially nude, employee to provide massage therapy or other massage services.
  • Allow any individual, including a client, license holder, or employee, to engage in sexual contact in the massage establishment.
  • Allow any individual, including a license holder, employee, or contract employee, to practice massage therapy in the nude or in clothing designed to arouse or gratify sexual desire.
  • Allow any individual, including a license holder, employee, or contract employee, to live on the premises of the massage establishment.

Establishment Continuing Education
Beginning July 1, 2025, establishment license holders who are not licensed massage therapists must obtain two hours of continuing education every two years. The continuing education topics must cover massage therapy laws and rules. Establishment license holders must provide certificate(s) of completion to the Board by October 1, 2025, along with their establishment license renewal application.

Establishment Renewal and Fees
The bill states that a massage establishment license must be renewed every two years. The process will include a renewal form and fee. The Board will create the form and determine the fee in the spring. The Board will also adopt fees for establishment inspection fees.

Establishment Exemptions
SB 665 exempts certain businesses from establishment licensure if they meet one of the following criteria:

  1. If the place of business is owned by the federal government, the state, a political subdivision of the state, or offers massage services authorized under other state-issued professional or occupational license(s), or
  2. If, at the place of business, a licensed massage therapist practices as a sole practitioner.
    • The sole practitioner does not use a business name.
    • The sole practitioner uses a business name and provides the massage therapist’s full legal name or license number in each advertisement and each time the business name appears in writing.