Understanding Workers' Compensation for Massage Therapists in California

By Kenton Koszdin on January 16, 2024 | In Workers Compensation

Understanding Workers’ Compensation for Massage Therapists in California

For many people, massage therapists play a central role in relaxation and general wellness, working to alleviate their clients’ tension and stress. However, the physical demands of this profession often go unnoticed. While rewarding, massage therapy can also lead to a variety of on-the-job injuries, particularly repetitive motion injuries.

Understanding workers’ compensation is crucial for massage therapists. It serves as a safety net, providing financial assistance and medical benefits in the event of work-related injuries. It’s essential to work with an experienced workers’ comp attorney on such cases to ensure that your rights and benefits are adequately protected.

Occupational Hazards in Massage Therapy

Massage therapists are exposed to a surprising number of risks in their line of work. Overuse injuries and slip-and-fall accidents are two of the most common.

Repetitive Strain Injuries

The most serious risk massage therapists face is strain related to repetitive movements. The nature of their work requires them to exert considerable physical effort to manipulate their client’s tissues. If not properly managed, this repetitive action can lead to injury.

Accidental Slips and Falls

Massage therapists spend a significant portion of their workday on their feet, moving in and out of different positions and administering various treatments. The use of oils and other slippery substances increases the risk of accidental slips and falls, making this a common on-the-job injury.

Other Common Massage Therapist Injuries

employee vs independent contractor who s in control (2)

Here are a few more injuries massage therapists may suffer while plying their craft:

  • Muscle and joint pain: This is often due to repetitive movements and the physical strain of giving long massages;
  • Tendinitis: Inflammation of the tendons can be caused by overuse or improper technique;
  • Shoulder labrum and rotator cuff tears: Shoulder injuries can occur from the repetitive arm movements often required in massage therapy;
  • Back strains and sprains and displaced or herniated discs: These injuries can result from poor posture, lifting heavy equipment, or the general physical strain of massaging;
  • Thoracic outlet syndrome: This condition can occur when the nerves or blood vessels between the collarbone and first rib are compressed, often due to poor posture or overuse;
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome: Carpal tunnel is a common injury among massage therapists due to repetitive hand and wrist movements.

These are just the most common injuries that affect massage therapists. It’s possible that these professionals could experience any number of other conditions.

Understanding Workers’ Comp Eligibility and Control Factors

As a massage therapist, three critical factors determine your eligibility for workers’ compensation:

  1. Your injury must be a direct result of your work — injuries sustained during non-work-related tasks aren’t eligible for benefits. However, this doesn’t imply that your injury must occur at your workplace. You can report work-related injuries at any time and still qualify for benefits.
  2. Your condition must significantly affect your ability to perform your job. Minor ailments may not meet the eligibility criteria.
  3. Your employer must be a medium to large-sized company. Freelancers or employees of companies with less than five employees may not qualify for benefits.

Employee vs. Independent Contractor: Who’s in Control?

employee vs independent contractor who s in control

The distinction between employees and independent contractors can impact access to workers’ compensation benefits. According to Section 2750 of the California Labor Code, an employment contract is formed when an employer engages an employee to perform a task for the employer or a third party.

The key to deciding eligibility lies in who had control over the worker at the time of the injury. This is often referred to as the ABC test, which is commonly used in California to determine whether a person making a workers’ compensation claim is an employee or an independent contractor.

The ABC Test

The ABC test examines the degree of control an employer has over an employee’s earnings, work hours, and job performance. Under the ABC test, a massage therapist would be considered an employee, not an independent contractor, unless the following conditions are true:

  • The worker is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of the work and in fact;
  • The worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business;
  • The worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as that involved in the work performed.

By contrast, independent contractors are self-employed individuals who set their own schedules and decide when, how, and where they’ll work.

Degree of Control

The degree of control an employer has over a worker’s job performance influences the determination of their employment status. The more control a business or entity has over how someone performs their job, the higher the likelihood that that person will be classified as an employee.

Even if a business or entity doesn’t directly control how a worker performs their job, they can still be considered an employer if they’ve expressly or implicitly reserved the right to control how the job should be performed.

Other factors can also indicate an employer-employee relationship, even if the worker labors off-site and travels from location to location, as massage therapists often do.

The Cost of Workers’ Compensation Insurance

the cost of workers compensation insurance

The financial implications of workers’ compensation insurance for massage therapy studios, clinics, and spas aren’t uniform.

The insurance company calculates the cost of this insurance based on several variables, including the type of business, the jurisdiction in which it operates, its payroll records, and its history of workplace incidents.

When you invest in workers’ compensation insurance, you aren’t merely paying a premium. You’re also safeguarding your business against potentially crippling financial losses.

In the majority of schemes, workers’ compensation liability insurance will help cover:

  • Legal expenses incurred in court
  • Attorney fees
  • Payments made in settlements
  • Other associated legal costs

This type of insurance is particularly crucial for businesses like massage therapy studios, where many therapists are employed, and the risk of injured workers is therefore relatively high.

Protect Yourself with Workers’ Comp Assistance

It’s vital to understand your rights and responsibilities as an injured employee in California to successfully bring a workers’ compensation claim.

The veteran attorneys at Kenton Koszdin Law Office proudly offer professional services to guide clients through this process, ensuring that they receive the compensation they deserve. Our team is dedicated to protecting your rights and advocating for your best interests.

Don’t attempt to take on your employer’s insurer alone. Reach out to Kenton Koszdin Law Office today to get trustworthy guidance and support.

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