Employee vs. Contractor: How California's Contractor Laws May Impact Your Corporate Massage Program

Amelia Wilcox
January 4, 2019
October 9, 2022

California employers in the gig economy are scrambling to ensure they're in compliance with California's contractor laws, as new scrutiny is being given to worker misclassifications.

For corporate massage providers that hire massage therapists to provide on-site massage services, this means taking a careful look at how they classify their massage therapists or risk paying hefty fines.

But what does this mean for clients who receive these corporate massage services?

In this article, we'll take a look at what's happening in California and what it will mean for companies that hire an office massage service.  

Why You May Lose Your Corporate Massage Program

California Contractor Misclassification

California's Worker Classification Ruling

On April 30, 2018, a Supreme Court ruling clarified the rules companies need to follow when hiring workers. Whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor means a world of difference for how a company is able to structure the duties of the worker.

In the emerging gig-economy, where more workers are providing on-demand services in a variety of industries, this ruling will have a big impact.

The worker classification ruling strives to make a clear distinction between outsourcing a truly temporary "gig" (such as a plumber to fix a leaky faucet in the office) versus using a worker in an ongoing manner (such as a massage therapist who needs to be at the same time and place for a corporate massage job on a regular basis).  Under the new ruling the plumber would be okay to be hired as a contractor, while the massage therapist should probably be hired as an employee.  

What Does This Mean for My Corporate Massage Program?

If you're a client of Nivati, you don't have to worry about the change. To ensure there is no disruption to our customers, we have all of our California massage therapists classified as employees, Thus, there is no risk of this new ruling affecting your workplace massage program. We are in full compliance, and have been for most of 2018. You just keep enjoying those corporate massages.

However, in the corporate massage world, most service providers hire massage therapists as independent contractors, not employees. If your onsite massage company is one of the many that does not classify their California massage therapists as employees, your program may be at risk.

Here's why.

Businesses that continue to misclassify their workers face paying hefty fines. Some businesses, in an effort to become compliant, are looking at converting all of their misclassified independent contractors into employees. What many of these organizations are now finding out is that this will most likely be a significant project.

If your corporate massage provider is unable to cover the cost of these fines, or unable to make the investment to convert their independent contractors into employees, they may choose to close part or all of their business in order to pay the fines.

Even if you have a contract in place with your onsite massage provider, they may be in a position in which they are unable to remain operating as they have been. This is why your massage program may be in jeopardy.  

My employees love their massages. How can I make sure this doesn't impact me?

Many employers have found that their employees love massages. Massage programs can reduce stress, improve morale, increase productivity, and reduce injury-related expenses.

It makes sense to wonder if California's new contractor laws may affect you and your onsite massage service, here are a few steps you can take.

1) Ask your massage company how the ruling is affecting them. Specifically ask if their massage therapists are classified as independent contractors or employees.  Since you are at risk of losing your massage program if the company you use comes under fire, you have a right to know. If you aren't able to get an answer from your massage company, or if they tell you their massage therapists are independent contractors, you'll want to consider your next move.

2) Look for an office massage therapy company that can pick up your program where your previous massage provider left off.

Because we've anticipated these changes coming for several months now, Nivati is prepared to take over for any companies in California who are losing their massage program because of this change.

3) Act quickly to make it a streamlined process.

There's no telling how soon this worker classification ruling will affect California massage companies. To be on the safe side, it can't hurt to begin checking out your options now.

For more information on how to keep your office massage program running in the midst of these changes, click here or give us a call at 866.470.5839.  

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Amelia Wilcox
Amelia Wilcox
Amelia Wilcox is the Founder and CEO of Nivati, a leader in corporate massage and employee mental health support since 2010. Her high-growth B2B company provides employee stress management tools that arm businesses with actionable data and positive employee experiences to improve wellbeing, boost morale, and increase engagement. Amelia has exponentially grown her company from a solo living-room service business to an international technology brand.