Massage Establishment Regulation

Published: July 26, 2017

Local Massage Establishment Regulation

Current Wisconsin Massage Therapy and Bodywork Therapy laws include Wisconsin Statute 460.17 Local regulation "A city, village, town, or county may not enact an ordinance that regulates the practice of massage therapy or bodywork therapy by a person who is licensed by the affiliated credentialing board under this chapter. No provision of any ordinance enacted by a city, village, town, or county that is in effect before February 1, 1999, and that relates to the practice of massage therapy or bodywork therapy, may be enforced against a person who is licensed by the affiliated credentialing board under this chapter."

This law does not prohibit local regulation of Massage Establishments by counties, cities, townships, villages, etc, it only prohibits regulation of the practice of Wisconsin Licensed Therapists. AMTA Wisconsin Chapter is aware of approximately 35 local regulations covering Massage Establishments. There may be many more, as many do not have readily internet searchable ordinances. These regulations vary significantly in cost, requirements, and scope of regulation, which many therapists find burdensome. The majority of local regulations were adopted to reduce prostitution, human trafficking, or other illegal activity.

Here are just a few examples of overreaching and burdensome local ordinances: annual $350 application fee plus fingerprinting and an annual inspection (City of Milwaukee), individual keyed lockers for clients (Village of Edgar), draping stricter than state requirements or women to wear clothing covering breasts (several), prohibit gluteal or breast massage (several), requiring therapist to be fully clothed from the knee to the neck in clean, opaque, light-colored clothing (Town of Caledonia).

A reminder to check with all local units of government in which you practice, both county and city,town, township, or village to inquire if there is specific massage establishment regulation in addition to any general business regulation, zoning requirements, etc.

AMTA Wisconsin Chapter is continuing researching if there is support among Wisconsin LMTs for a state level Massage Establishment Registration that would prohibit local establishment regulation (in the same way our licensing prohibits local regulation of the practice of massage), while also exempting Establishments owned by licensed professionals. Members have been sent a survey to gauge support.

Such a state level establishment regulation could reduce the cost and burden on therapist owners, while providing uniformity of regulation from area to area. It would also provide local law enforcement throughout the state greater ability to monitor and regulate establishments of questionable integrity, such as by imposing penalties to establishment owners who employ non-licensed persons to provide services. Current state massage licensing laws do provide for penalties to licensed professionals and licensed barbering/cosmetology/aesthetics establishments who employ non-licensed individuals, but currently there are no such provisions in the law that apply to non-licensed owners of massage establishments.