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Arbitration Will Not Be Used in Case Filed by Massage School Student

Friday, January, 15, 2016

The US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit recently ruled there will be no arbitration in a case filed by a massage school student alleging laws were broken when her educator failed to compensate her for massages given during her time at the school. The student charged that because clients paid the school, she should be entitled to compensation.


The school hoped to settle the matter through arbitration, but the Tenth Circuit ruled the student would be unable to vindicate her rights under the Fair Labor Standard Act and Colorado’s state wage law if the matter were settled through arbitration. Arbitration would require the student to share a portion of the arbitrator’s fees and pay her own legal cost, even if she were successful in arbitration. The student testified she would be unable to pay these fees and would be forced to drop her suit if this were her only option. The Tenth Circuit agreed that the cost would be “prohibitively expensive” for the student and accepted the student’s claim that arbitration would cost her between $2,320 and $12,487 in costs paying arbitrator's fees.


As a result of the ruling, the student can now take her claims to court.


The student filed her claim based on her belief that students are employees of the school’s student massage clinic and they are entitled to wages when they perform massage services.


The final ruling in the case could have significant impact on massage therapy schools and other vocational training programs that routinely offer students the opportunity to work with real-life clients in a student clinic setting. If the schools are charging clients for services, they could be forced to compensate students for the time worked in the clinical setting.