Message therapists in of Florida aren’t necessarily happy with a new state law that demands fingerprint background checks for practitioners. As of January 31 2015, all licensed massage therapists in the state of Florida were supposed to submit a set of fingerprint scans to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. As dictated by policy, the state department would then use those fingerprints to conduct criminal history searches of all massage therapists in the state.
The requirements have been laid forth by a new state law that was passed during the 2014 legislative period. The bill was initially drafted in response to numerous accusations and convictions levied against massage businesses, alleging everything from molestation to sex trafficking. The latter allegations are the most worrisome, as they have come up numerous times around the state, particularly in the Tampa area. The new law is primarily designed with the goal of uncovering massage businesses run as covers for human trafficking operations.
After submitting their fingerprints to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, massage therapists would be checked against state criminal and sex offender registries. Per the law, the state’s Department of Health would suspend the license of any therapist of massage business if the background checks revealed a relevant felony conviction.
The list of crimes that would force such a suspension is a lengthy one, populated mostly by sexually related offenses. For instance, any masseuse charged with sexual battery, possession of child pornography, prostitution, lewd or lascivious behavior committed against minors or the elderly, or kidnapping would never be allowed to work in the in the Florida massage therapy industry again. The rest of the list can be viewed here.
This new law is a powerful and productive step forward in the fight against sexual abuse and human trafficking. Some other states where these issues are known to be prevalent have already cracked down on massage therapy businesses. Illinois, for instance, approved a similar measure as law all the way back in 2004. The Chicagoland area especially is known as a hive for human trafficking.
In other words, the new Florida law has precedent in other parts of the nation. That fact hasn’t been a comfort to massage therapists in Florida, though, who feel as if the state government is nickel-and-diming them to death. Indeed, fingerprinting is an expensive procedure that can cost between $80 and $120. And since massage therapist have to go into government offices to get the fingerprint scans done, it’s also a time intensive process. Both complaints are valid ones, and beg the question of whether or not basic name-based criminal checks, without the fingerprinting, could be more effective in this case.