Las Vegas — The Las Vegas Athletic Club has had to cease its offer of free enrollments to women after the Nevada Equal Rights Commission decided in a 3-to-1 vote that the promotion was discriminatory. The vote was held last month after a public hearing before the commission.
The ruling came after Todd Phillips brought a complaint about the promotion to the commission last year after his wife received a free enrollment to the fitness club while he did not.
Chad Smith, the executive vice president of the Las Vegas Athletic Club, says the outcome of the vote was expected, even though he disagrees with it.
"We don't feel like what we were doing is discrimination," Smith says.
During special promotions, the Las Vegas Athletic Club offered a free enrollment to women and charged a $10 enrollment to men. Enrollment at the club normally is $99.
Phillips says that once he complained about the promotion to the club staff, the club terminated his membership. Phillips also says he received a letter from the club stating his membership was cancelled and that he would be accused of trespassing if he returned to any of the six Las Vegas Athletic Clubs.
"It was retaliation because I questioned the policy," Phillips says. "They saw that as an affront."
Smith acknowledges that the letter was sent to Phillips, but only after Phillips repeatedly called the six Las Vegas Athletic Clubs and harassed employees about the company's promotion, Smith says.
Phillips is an attorney who has tried several cases involving women who receive free admission into nightclubs, but he says that his complaint was prompted by the health club's letter.
"I believe everyone should stand up for their civil rights," he says.
Smith says that this matter will eventually go to court, and that the issue could continue in the legal system for the next three to five years. It is also possible, Smith says, that the Nevada Resort Association will get involved in the case once it goes to court. An attorney with the association, which represents the casino industry, was on hand for the hearing.
Casinos also charge men and women differently for entry into several clubs, and the commission's ruling could impact them in the future, the attorney for the association says. However, the association's impact at the hearing was minimal since it was not party to the complaint.
"The ruling that [the commission] made affects not just our health club but all public accommodation and service industries in the state," Smith says. "There is a specific law that addresses health clubs. They did not look at that law."
The commission issued a cease-and-desist order to stop the Las Vegas Athletic Club from running its "ladies join free" promotion, which Smith says the club stopped doing several months ago.