ADA Compliance – Six Steps For Your Spa

Is your spa compliant with the ADA? Our laws and our culture recognize the dignity of those with physical, developmental and intellectual challenges, and their right to be free from unlawful discrimination. But as the definition of “disability” continues to expand, employers often must make difficult decisions about protecting their customers and their business without running afoul of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The key language is: can the individual perform the essential functions of the job with or without “a reasonable accommodation that does not fundamentally alter the nature of the goods and services provided, or create an undue risk to the individual or others?” If not, then the law allows an employer to “discriminate” by not hiring that person. In determining what is “reasonable,” cost may be taken into consideration, as well as the job in question, industry and physical layout of your facility.

While ultimately the final decision always rests with the employer, by adhering to the following six steps, spa owners can significantly increase their chances of complying with the ADA as well as properly defending themselves if they are ever accused of an ADA violation:

  1. While it is clearly UNLAWFUL to ask a prospective employee about a disability, once a conditional offer is made, an employer can ask the key question: “Is there anything that would prevent you from performing the essential functions of the job with or without a reasonable accommodation?”
  2. If the answer is no, there can be no further inquiry unless there is an obvious situation (a silly example would be a person hired to lead nature hikes who uses a wheelchair). Once you are made aware of the disability, if you have any concerns about the employee’s ability to function with or without an accommodation, you are free to discuss the issue directly with the individual. There is no need to beat around the bush. The key is to phrase all questions in terms of your desire to make a reasonable accommodation and to treat each person individually. Statements such as “we don’t hire people with epilepsy” are a big no-no and will get you in trouble every time.
  3. If after this conversation you have any concerns, you can insist on speaking with the employee’s health care provider. To do so, the person must give permission to the provider in the form of a written release. If the person refuses to do this, the inquiry is over, and you can refuse to accept the person on the grounds that he/she is refusing to allow you access to the information you need to comply with the law.
  4. When speaking with the health care provider (if you have an in-house medical staff you should include them in the conversation), be careful not to ask questions such as, “Doctor, do you believe this person can fulfill the requirements of the job?” The reason is simple. First, the doctor will almost never disagree with his patient and 99.9% of the time will give his/her stamp of approval. Second, when it comes to your facility, it is you – not the doctor – who is the expert and who has the final say, and just how a doctor would not ask you a medical question, you should not ask a doctor’s opinion about running a spa. As we know, each business is unique and no one knows it better than you do, and in the end, asking the doctor to decide the ultimate question will provide little guidance while getting you in trouble if you disagree with his/her assessment. Instead of delegating the decision to the doctor, talk about your concerns, and ask questions directed to the job functions, programs, schedules and facilities of your particular spa. Once armed with the answers, you are ready for the next step.
  5. Discuss any remaining concerns with the employee. What accommodations are you able to make? Or are you unable to make any that are reasonable? Always phrase the discussion in terms of your desire to make this work, if possible, and in terms of the safety of the staff member, his/her co-workers, and your customers. If you agree with an accommodation, make the plan as specific as possible. There is nothing wrong with a “trial period” to see if the plan will work, if it needs adjustments, or if the experiment has failed.
  6. It is essential that all discussions, whether with a healthcare or employee, focus on the person. In other words, avoid stereotypes. The main thrust of the ADA is that each employee must be treated as an individual rather than as a member of a group.

ADA-related decisions are often difficult. They must balance your personal desire to provide opportunities to individuals with disabilities along with your need to provide a safe environment for customers and staff. By following these steps, you will help shield yourself from a discrimination claim. More importantly, you will likely garner the information you need to make good decisions.

Article is re-posted from the AMSKier blog.

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Maintaining a Sacred Spa Space

The recent claims of sexual abuse at Massage Envy locations have been all over the news. As spa owners, therapists and leaders in the industry, it is incredibly important that we pave the way so these types of incidents don’t occur. It’s vital to have a clear, concise, and transparent set of policies and procedures in place to ensure that both guests and therapists are safe from sexual abuse.

The most important policy (which is pretty simple) is that if either party feels uncomfortable in any way, at any time, for any reason they are encouraged and fully supported to terminate the service.  Both staff and clients need to know that their well-being is the number one priority and that spa management is 100% supportive of this. There are several ways to make sure this is clearly known. Training for staff is critical and a “training” of sorts for clients is also critical. What I mean by this is that on the company website it is important to address possible concerns clients may have such as draping, male/female therapist requests, customization, comfort and professionalism. We write this into our treatment menus as an eloquent way to reassure potential clients that their safety and comfort is important to us.

Continuing education and an open dialogue is also vital to a spa’s success. Spa Mangers must have the difficult conversations with their teams.  At staff meetings I encourage open dialogue, role-playing and the review of policies such as proper draping, modesty and professionalism. Work to button up all protocols so everyone feels comfortable. The fastest and easiest way to address these issues with the team is to be open, start conversations and hold ongoing training.

I believe that as an industry we are still trying to convert a large percentage of the population from non spa-goers to spa-goers.  We believe in spa treatments as a necessity, not a luxury, and our mission is to help enhance peoples’ well-being. I think that the ramifications for our industry after the Massage Envy sexual abuse claims can potentially set our new customer conversions back because the non spa-goer is looking to feel comfortable and reassured as they enter the unchartered spa territory; these claims certainly don't help.  The last thing we want is our potential client to feel uneasy when they walk through our door. Making guests feel comfortable and reassured comes down to how you train your team and the philosophy you have set for your spa.

Finally, as an industry I believe we should never hire an unlicensed therapist.  If your state does not require a license, you as an employer, should require your therapists to be licensed in a neighboring state.  As an individual spa, we must follow or set our own
code of conduct.  You can use the NCBTMB or ISPA as a guideline: or conduct

A warm, comfortable environment for our guests is incredibly important to cultivate lifelong clients and spa enthusiasts. We want our guests to feel they can openly ask questions and voice concerns without feeling awkward.  My philosophy has always been to over communicate rather than under, with guests and employees alike.  So much falls through the cracks when there is a breakdown in communication; it is our job as leaders in the spa industry to ensure that everyone, clients and staff alike, know the rules and
remain safe when enjoying treatments.


About Julie Pankey
As a Spa Director and Consultant for various brands in the Northeast region for many years, Pankey has developed an extensive network of trusted relationships with some of the most well-known, distinguished spas and resorts in the region. As a thought leader and innovator, Pankey developed The SpaHive Community to connect spa and wellness professionals through a private online community, education sessions, pop up boutiques and special events. 
Pankey continues to further the spa industry by collaborating with the consumer and corporate sectors through her newly launched SpaHive Corporate Wellness Programs. She has contributed to the success of such companies as Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Spa at Norwich Inn, Marriott, Cliff House Resort and Spa, Catania Hospitality, Pacifica Hotels, Fluhme Beauty, Christopher Drummond Beauty, OSEA Malibu, The Industry Source and many more. Her website is

2017 Successful Hands Grant Program™ Winners Announced

Akron, Ohio – January 10, 2018– Biofreeze®, Massage Envy® and Bon Vital’® are pleased to announce the winners of the 2017 Successful Hands Grant Program™. The program, a collaborative effort between three leading brands in the industry, supports professional massage therapy students by awarding eight $1,000 educational grants. In addition, each winner’s school receives a $1,000 grant package. In February, applicants were asked to complete a 200-word essay on “What being a successful massage therapist means to me.” The submission process brought in over 600 applications before it closed on October 15, 2017.

“We are always grateful for the opportunity to invest in the future of the massage therapy profession, and this program is one of my favorite ways to do so,” said Marshall Dahneke, Chief Commercial Officer, Performance Health. “Once again, we are impressed by the high level of professionalism and passion exhibited by the participating students. I am excited and honored to announce this year’s winners.”

The 2017 program recipients were announced in a video message today on the Successful Hands Grants and Massage Envy Careers Facebook pages and are listed below:

 Desserin Custodio, National Holistic Institute, Studio City, CA
 Paul Howey, Cortiva Institute, Scottsdale, AZ
 Annemarie Juntunen, Pittsburgh School of Massage Therapy, Pittsburgh, PA
 Bailey Mathews, National Holistic Institute, Sacramento, CA
 Joanne Nastri, Inland Massage Institute, Spokane, WA
 Cynthia Nelson, Northwestern Health Sciences University, Bloomington, MN
 Tresca Pennington, School of Massage at Kneaded Energy, Greensboro, NC
 Annie Seward, Central Florida School of Massage Therapy, Winter Park, FL

“Therapists and their commitment to taking good care of their clients are at the heart of the Massage Envy brand,” said Joe Magnacca, CEO of Massage Envy Franchising. “We work hard to support and elevate the entire profession, which is why we have been a partner in the Successful Hands Grant Program for the past four years.”

“We’re excited to partner with Performance Health to support these students who are dedicating their lives to total body care,” added Rick Boden, Director of Employee Brand Engagement, Massage Envy. “We received so many wonderful submissions; I know it wasn’t easy for our selection committee to choose only eight winners. We’re very grateful for their willingness to serve on the review committee.”

2017 review committee members:
 Scott Dartnall, President and CEO, One Concept
 Mae Manacap-Johnson, Senior Editor, Pulse; International SPA Association
 Karen Menehan, Editor in Chief, MASSAGE Magazine
 Michelle Medaris, Associate Editor, Massage Today
 Leslie Young, ABMP, Vice President Communication.

“We can’t wait to see what the 2017 winners accomplish and we look forward to kicking off the 2018 Successful Hands Grant Program next month,” said Lynda Solien-Wolfe, Vice President Massage and Spa, Performance Health. “Be part of our Facebook community to stay up to date on all the launch details.”

About Massage Envy
Massage Envy, based in Scottsdale, Arizona, is a national franchisor and, through its franchise locations, is the leading provider of therapeutic massage and skincare services, and proprietary assisted stretching service, Total Body Stretch. The Massage Envy franchise system is, collectively, the largest employer of massage therapists and estheticians, with more than 35,000 dedicated wellness professionals that provide best-in-class service to over 1.65 million members. Founded in 2002, Massage Envy has more than 1,170 franchise locations in 49 states that have together delivered more than 100 million massages and facials. For more information, visit, or follow us on Twitter @MassageEnvy and Facebook

About Performance Health
Performance Health is the largest specialty distributor and manufacturer of branded products and solutions for rehabilitation, recovery, and sports medicine in the world. The Performance Health brand family includes the well-known and highly recognized brand names – Bon Vital’®, Biofreeze®, TheraBand®, Cramer®, Active Ankle®, Perform®, and Hygenic®. Performance Health is proud of the ability to serve anyone including those recovering from an injury, to those suffering from pain, to weekend warriors, to elite athletes, to healthcare professionals…and everyone in between. For each person, our purpose is simple: help them feel good, perform better, and live great!
Follow the grant program at


By The Trent Trend Spotter, Nancy Trent
President, Trent & Company Marketing Communications

Businesses today have a lot of stressors to deal with from Amazon algorithms to distribution demands, disruptive weather and terror.  The International Spa Association’s annual event (ISPA) was held at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas days after the internationally reported mass shooting occurred there.   
Lynne McNees, President of ISPA, said, “There was no wavering.  Our show continued full speed ahead; we are an industry of healers and the world needs healing right now.  There is a lack of human interaction and there is no substitute for human touch.”
While spas are looked at as a place to relax, reduce stress and invest in one’s health, technology is playing a part in enhancing the overall spa experience.   Emerging technologies and innovations are driving demand for professionals equipped with the knowledge and skills to serve clients in the natural beauty and spa industry.
ISPA’s annual U.S. Spa industry study with PwC (Price Waterhouse Coopers) showed the sustained growth leading to a wealth of job opportunities.  The study highlights the record-breaking revenue of 16.8 billion USD.  The same report indicated 33,000 vacant positions for service providers. 
The professional beauty and spa industries have joined forces to elevate and celebrate careers in the spa industry, launching a nationwide call to action. The “Get Your Dream Job” initiative is a partnership between ISPA and the the Beauty Changes Lives Foundation which will be promoted by spas, salons, clubs and schools coast-to- coast to build awareness of extraordinary career opportunities in the spa sector.
“With the spa industry’s continual growth, careers in the spa business offer stability and opportunity. This campaign will spread the message about the benefits of working in spas, salons and clubs to attract job seekers looking for promising careers,” said McNees.
A considerable percentage of that 16.8 billion revenue comes from retail.  Spa professionals are starting to pay closer attention to what they are selling in-spa and online. 
During ISPA, I held a TED-talk style Q&A with Amazon influencer, Rachel Greer, Partner/Principal Consultant at Cascadia Seller Solutions.  To fight this battle against Amazon, spas need to use what they have.  This means spas need to have whatever Amazon doesn’t.   One thing Amazon doesn’t have is the ability to create an experience.  The show featured a blend of tech and tech-free experiences.

Here are a few trendy experiences spotted on the show floor:
Get salted
Allergens and pollution are at an all-time high.  Lung and skin conditions are on the rise. Cold and flu season is approaching.   People are looking for prevention and symptom relief.  Dry salt therapy, also called halotherapy, is a time-tested, alternative treatment that is in demand.  You no longer have to travel to salt caves in Eastern Europe to breathe in the benefits of dry salt therapy.  Companies like SALT Chamber for example are bringing dry salt therapy to urban environments across the world.  The company, well-known in the wellness community for its expertise in all things salt, is creating salt experiences everywhere from New York City spas to Hollywood homes.

Slow down

The brainchild of SpaRitual natural products founder and & green beauty pioneer Shel Pink, Slow Beauty is a beautiful, heartfelt book about sustainable beauty rituals, programs and philosophies that explain how to physically, mentally, and spiritually nourish the body from the inside out.  It’s about carving out small moments each day to practice mindful self care that helps with your glow. It’s the most revolutionary beauty book I have seen and is really having an impact on me and everyone I recommend it to.

Tap into your integrity 

Sounds True, an independent multimedia publishing company that embraces the world’s major spiritual traditions, introduced Kelley Kosow’s integrity movement with the launch of her book, “The Integrity Advantage” about owning who you are so you can reach your full potential. 
Hideaways that do no harm

The Colorado Yurt Company’s handcrafted yurts, teepees and tents provide a way to experience nature without harming it. If you live, work or play in one of their dwellings you’re inside a structure made with world’s finest fabrics that uses fewer natural resources than a traditional stick built structure. The company prides itself on creating comfortable “no trace” structures—meaning they heavily enrich your
outdoor experience, yet leave a light footprint on the environment.

Aromatherapy anywhere

EuroSpa aromatics is an industry leader responsible for filling homes and businesses with refreshing and impactful scents for more than 30 years. The company uses 100% natural Eucalyptus Oil that contains no toxic or harmful ingredients as foundation of all of their products and pairs it with only the finest ingredients.  From Eucalyptus to Lavender, no matter the scent you choose EuroSpa allows any room to deliver a stimulating spa aromatherapy experience.

Skincare that harnesses the power of probiotics 

 LaFlore skin care harnesses the power of probiotics to allow you to awaken your skin from within. Their products enhance good flora, the microbes that live on the skin, to act as the skin’s defense system to protect it from threats like unwanted bacteria and environmental toxins. These ingredients work together to help strengthen the skin’s immune system at the cellular level, allow it to breathe and restore it to a state of wellness. Give your skin a breath of fresh air with LaFlore.

Jewelry that helps you recharge

Phillip Stein has been responsible for keeping many on time for decades through their high-end time pieces. Now they are disrupting the industry to ensure we get the most out of our sleep and have the energy to power through the day. Embedded with their unique Natural Frequency Technology® the Philip Stein Sleep Bracelet harnesses and channels frequencies to help you sleep better and wake up more refreshed. If fighting the midday slump is your problem, get more balance, increased focus and improved performance with the Philip Stein Horizon Sport Bracelet. Better sleep and more energy…it’s all on the wrist!

No crossed legs, no incense, no gently bubbling fountain, thanks to Budhagirl piece of mind can come from your accessories. These waterproof, weightless, soundless bangles remind you to focus on your intentions.  The chains are made to remind you to pause, breathe and visualize.  All Budhagirl wearable accessories are proven to change your outlook as well as your style by changing your habits and how you think.

Fashion that keeps you moving

With roots in athleisure, the creators of Anatomie took performance wear to the next level – travel specific luxury.  These chic and comfortable clothes are made for traveling light.  You can fit a week of really chic and versatile work and play clothes in something slightly larger than a shoebox.  They are incredibly easy to pack and quick drying to boot.

Health and beauty in one shot

Get head-to- toe beauty in one shot with Aethern®. Put down the cream and pills and pick up a test tube that functions like a cup. Aethern is the only all-natural drinkable food supplement for skin that delivers a beauty vitamin mix that keeps the skin hydrated, radiant and firm. Aethern is all natural, works faster than any pill or powder and has been a go to for Hollywood royalty like Cate Blanchet because it delivers all the critical nutrients women need in one drinkable dose. You can take it directly as a shot or mix it with water or juice. No matter how drink it just make sure to toast daily to better skin with Aethern!

Toxin free skincare

Kanya’s skincare products do more for you than just help skin reach its potential. The company uses virgin, holistic ingredients to make luxurious oils, scrubs and tonics that moisturize and enhance the body’s chakras! Besides working to improve your skin and the state of chakras the brand wants to improve the world. A percentage of Kanya’s profits go to the Indian Dreams Foundation- a charity that works relentlessly toward education, health, and menstrual hygiene awareness in urban slums and rural areas of India.

Certified organic facials with instant and lasting results? You’re awake and Nelly De Vuyst has made this dream a reality with their new Biotense collection. The products in this groundbreaking collection are made with organic ingredients that contain antioxidants, vitamins, amino acids and essential minerals to naturally rebalance and even out the skin complexion. Nelly De Vuyst Biotense has been the go to for skincare professionals for decades, but this line will allow your favorite spa to offer “green” facials that are good for your skin and the planet.

Luzern Swiss skin care is transforming the world of beauty for the better. The luxury skincare line’s Clean | Cold Formulated™ technique ensures ingredient potency and that their products are free of additives, irritants, and toxins. From moisturizers to brow enhancers, while Luzern offers many products they all uphold the brand’s promise of better, purer skin care products and healthier, more beautiful skin without harming the planet.

Esthederm’s patented cellular water mirrors the make-up of the water already in your skin and helps to maintain your youthfulness and enhances the effectiveness of all of our products. Their natural line of skin care products is made with skin-friendly formulas that respect the skin’s integrity provide it with constant protection against ageing, optimize its cellular metabolism and strengthen its ability to adapt and improve its resistance to environmental stressors. Esthederm works just as hard as you do!

The next annual ISPA event will will be held Sept. 24 – 26, 2018 | Phoenix Convention Center, Phoenix, AZ.

Nancy Trent

Nancy Trent

President, Trent & Company Marketing Communications

Nancy Trent is a writer and speaker, a lifelong health advocate, a globe-trotting trend watcher and the founder and president of Trent & Company, a New York-based marketing communications firm with an office in Los Angeles.  Trent & Company grew out of Nancy’s personal commitment to helping people live longer and healthier lives.  A former journalist for New York magazine, Nancy has written seven books on healthy lifestyles, serves on the editorial boards of several magazines and travels around the world speaking at conferences and trade shows on trends in the marketplace. She is a recognized expert in PR with more than 30 years of experience creating and managing highly successful campaigns. Nancy can be reached at (212) 966-0024 or through e-mail at  You may also visit

Selling is Influence: What is Selling?

Hi friends, we are beginning a new series that focuses on selling that features my longtime friend Mark Wuttke who now runs Babor Skin Care for the Americas. Mark and I have always talked about our fascination with selling and why it seems so hard and complex for folks to pick up. Well guess what? We’ve simplified it into a 5 part series and short (videos are 3-5 minutes). Here’s part one on “Selling is Influence, What is Selling.

Watch it, you’re going to love it!


Allan Share, President of the Spa Industry Association