Currently there is a fight in Florida, headed by the Attorney General (AG), to stop human trafficking. AG Pam Bondi has worked to make Florida a zero-tolerance state for human trafficking. During the 2012 legislative session, she advocated for legislation that was supposed to crack down on human trafficking.
Section 480.0535, Florida Statutes, is one result of her efforts. The statute contains details on the documentation required for employees working in a massage therapy establishment. These requirements provide the Department of Health (DOH) and law enforcement agencies the means to forcibly identify, investigate and arrest people who are supposedly involved in human trafficking.
This statute became effective on July 1, 2012.
Documents Required While Working in a Massage Therapy Establishment.
Under Section 480.0535, Florida Statutes, a person employed by a massage therapy establishment and any person performing massage therapy must immediately present, upon the request of a DOH investigator or a law enforcement officer, a form of valid government identification.
Valid identification includes:
- A valid driver’s license;
- A valid identification card;
- A valid United States passport;
- A naturalized certificate issued by the United States Department of Homeland Security;
- A valid alien registration receipt card (green card); or
- A valid employment authorization card issued by the United States Department of Homeland Security.
A person operating a massage therapy establishment must immediately present upon the request of a DOH investigator or law enforcement officer:
- Valid government identification while in the establishment; and
- A copy of the documentation specified above for each employee and any person performing massage therapy in the establishment.
Penalties for Not Complying.
A person who violates any provision of this statute is subject to criminal penalties for failure to comply with the documentation requirements.
The first violation is considered a misdemeanor of the second degree. The offender could face jail time of up to sixty (60) days and a $500 fine. The second violation is considered a misdemeanor of the first degree. The offender could spend up to a year in jail and have to pay a $1,000 fine. For someone who commits a third or subsequent violations, that person could be charged with a felony of the third degree. That offender faces imprisonment of up to five (5) years and a $5,000 fine.
This statute criminalized the act of not having identification on you during work as a massage therapist.
Previous Investigation of Massage Therapy Businesses Led to Emergency Suspension Orders.
You may remember back in September 2012, an investigation into several massage therapy businesses by the Florida DOH, Clearwater Human Trafficking Task Force and the South Florida Human Trafficking Task Force turned up more than 200 massage therapists who appeared to have obtained their massage therapy licenses by fraud. Subsequently, the Florida Surgeon General signed emergency suspension orders (ESOs) for more than 160 massage therapists in Florida.
Authorities said the ESOs were, in part, an effort to target Florida’s human trafficking problem. Authorities stated that massage parlors are a typical place for finding victims of human trafficking. Click here to read more from our previous blog.
Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in the Representation of Massage Therapists.
The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to massage therapists in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, licensing matters and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.
We have represented a number of Chinese massage therapists who have had summary actions initiated against their massage therapy licenses by the Department of Health (DOH). Many of these have confided in us that they believe there may be discrimination involved in the way they were targeted. We are looking into such allegations for several clients.
To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.
Did you know about this Florida Statue? Does your massage therapy business comply with the statute? Do you think it will help in preventing human trafficking? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.
Have you been the subject of any discrimination or harassment from investigators based on your race or national origin? We’d like to hear from you if you have.
About the Authors: Lance O. Leider is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.
George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.
“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
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