Submitted By Anonymous
Editor’s Note: The following submission was edited for length.
The primary deal breakers are employers who are unethical. I never see these issues addressed. When first starting I worked at a spa/salon the issues I faced included:
- Employer demanding four- or eight-hour shifts, completely unpaid. During the unpaid shifts, employees were recruited to sweep floors, be shampoo girls, do salon inventory and so on. Even waitresses are paid a minimum wage for their time, why not massage therapists?
- Deduction from paycheck for materials used, such as oil, while also deducting from salon owner’s expenses. This resulted in the employer taking a tax break for legitimate expenses while collecting unreported income.
- The employer required us to order specific products as “gifts” for our clients, supposedly at wholesale costs, split 50/50 between us, but no invoices were ever provided to allow for our own tax deductions.
- Required purchasing a pricey, specific uniform using the owner’s credit card and never given an invoice to be able to deduct from my own taxes.
- Owner collected a fee for janitorial services but, again, failed to provide any invoice to the employees.
- Asked employees to do uncompensated errands using their own time and car.
- Insisted all employees attend mandatory, but uncompensated, meetings and educational seminars.
- Employer offered massage deals or session discounts without the consent or knowledge of the therapist, and then billed the therapist for the difference. The massage therapist ended up reimbursing the employer for the discount.
- Mishandling of withholding income taxes. The deductions showed up on the employee’s pay stub, but never reached the government. Eventually the Internal Revenue Service will catch up to this and require the employer to prove they paid, but may also end up investigating the employee who may have to pay up on back taxes – even though the employee’s pay stub shows they did have deductions.
- Deliberately over-booking or deliberately allowing slightly less time than is actually needed by the massage therapist. This means sessions were 60 minutes, including adequately completing an intake form, disrobing and dressing, as well as cleaning the room.
All I see are feel-good articles about the healing arts, chakras and so on. The reality of the business environment is not addressed. These issues are not isolated examples but commonplace, and I feel it is a subject that should be addressed. Thanks for listening.
If you were confronted with the same situation again, how might you handle things differently?
Response from Anonymous
My regret with the first salon is that I stayed too long. I helped to build it up from a new business to a successful enterprise within a nine-month period. However, the working environment was so horrid and so stressful that I left. I was never compensated for all the extra time and labor. I would not submit to that again. Long hours of unpaid time will not pay your bills.
Response from Institute for Integrative Healthcare Studies
Many of the issues stated above result in unreported income for the employer and unfair deductions or reductions in employee pay. The best way to avoid such practices is to enter into a written agreement with the potential employer. This would apply whether the massage therapist is an actual employee or an independent contractor. The agreement would include such items as who is paying income taxes and which items or services the massage therapist must pay for or be responsible for and which are the responsibility of the owner. Such items might be massage oils, linens, janitorial or laundry services, continuing education requirements and uniforms. Other parts of the agreement would be hours available versus hours actually worked and what the compensation for such time would be.
Massage therapists who are new to the profession are eager to find work. Often, working for someone else, either a private practice or in a large organization or chain, offers both experience and a steady paycheck. Occasionally an employer will take unfair advantage of a massage therapist who is just out of school. A good school will have prepared the student with information on contracts and dealing with a potential employer.
Whether you are starting out or have some years of experience, don’t let an employer take unfair advantage of you. If given a contract, consider doing the following:
- Ask to take it home and look it over before signing.
- Let someone else read over it. In the excitement of a job opportunity, you may skip over some of the small print.
- Have the employer explain or clarify anything you don’t understand.
- If wording seems vague, ask for specifics.
- Know in advance if you have to pay for required additional training or supplies. You may be required to pay in advance, or it might be deducted from pay.
- Determine for sure if you will be hired as an employee or as an independent contractor. As an employee you are entitled to certain benefits and the employer will deduct taxes from your pay. As an independent contractor you will be responsible for paying your own taxes. You may also be required to provide your own equipment or supplies. Another possibility is that you are considered a tenant; this would be treated somewhat similarly to an independent contractor, but additionally you would have to pay room rental and possible other expenses.
Always be aware of what is best for you both short and long term. Don’t make the mistake of getting trapped in an unpleasant, unfair or even illegal situation.
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