Is it legal for a massage therapy studio owner to quote his independent contractors one price via email and change it after the massages were done?

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Is it legal for a massage therapy studio owner to quote his independent contractors one price via email and change it after the massages were done?

The owner of the massage studio bought a Groupon-like deal and told the therapists via email they would all be getting $75 for each 2-hour massage they gave via the deal. However, after the therapists had been giving these discounted massages, he realized that the Groupon-like took money off the top, as well, and that he’d be losing a lot if he paid everyone what he said he would. So he wrote another email saying they’d only get $50 per massage, instead, and even took money for massages they’d already performed out of their paychecks. Is this legal? Is there any recourse?

Asked on May 11, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Massachusetts

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Going forward, the studio owner could change how much therapists will receive--that is, from the point of the announcement of the change onward, for massages/therapy not already conducted.

However, any massages which were given at the $75 rate must be paid at that rate, even if it costs the studio owner money; those massages had been done as per an agreement to pay $75, and an agreement, whether written or oral, cannot be unilaterally changed by one party. The owner is free to explain his hardship or situation to the therapists and ask them to voluntarily accept less money; but if they do not agree to it, he must pay them as per the agreement which had then been in force.


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