Five massage therapists have had their licenses revoked since January for alleged sexual misconduct, according to the state’s Office of the Attorney General.
The State Board of Massage and Bodywork Therapy has proposed new rules to help prevent sexual misconduct in the industry.
The new rules, published Monday on the New Jersey Register, require massage therapists to notify the board of criminal civil, administrative, and employment actions against them within 10 days of when they take place. They would also be required to report the misconduct of others, as well as protect minors from abuse — clients under 18 require written parental consent for massage therapy and bodywork, and clients under 16 require parental presence.
“New Jersey has zero tolerance for massage therapists who engage in sexual contact with their clients during massage therapy sessions,” said Attorney General Gurbir Grewal in a statement. “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 board revoked licenses of four massage therapists in March and one in January. Matthew Plotkin, of Hand and Stone Spa in Allendale, pleaded guilty to criminal sexual contact with a client during a massage therapy session. Jacob Robinson pleaded guilty to two counts of criminal sexual contact with a client during a massage therapy session at an undisclosed spa. Jose Calderon, of Body Positive Works in Saddle River, allegedly touched a client inappropriately; as did Sean Pasculli of Suzi’s Salon and Spa in Morristown and Leo Rodriguez of Body Balance Massage & Skincare in Hoboken.
“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 Rodríguez, acting director of the Division of Consumer Affairs in a statement. “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.”
Last year, the board permanently revoked 12 licenses for alleged inappropriate sexual contact with clients.
The new rules proposed for massage therapists are subject to public comment through Sept. 13 and can be viewed here.
Editor’s note: According to files NJBIZ received from Calderon’s attorney, Leonard Cupo of Cupa Law Firm in Jersey City, Calderon “agree[d] to voluntarily surrender his license, to be deemed permanent revocation, without making admission of any professional misconduct and/or sexual misconduct.” Cupo told NJBIZ via email that Calderon “vehemently denied any allegation of misconduct and only surrendered his massage therapy license due to his age and lack of desire to continue to work as a massage therapist.”