A woman in New Mexico is suing Planet Fitness after the club she belonged to allegedly told her to remove her head covering, which she wears for religious reasons.
The allegations were reported today by the Albuquerque (NM) Journal. Tarainia McDaniel, who informed the club she is Muslim, claims she was told by management at the Albuquerque Planet Fitness that she could only wear a baseball cap, in accordance with the club's dress code. The incident occurred on Oct. 3, 2011, the Journal reported.
According to the newspaper: "McDaniel's civil lawsuit, filed under the New Mexico Human Rights Act and the Unfair Practices Act, alleges Planet Fitness illegally based the decision to deny her access upon her religion, or alternatively upon her race—she is African American—and that the gym had no legitimate or non-pretextual reason to deny her entry. Planet Fitness, in its formal answer to the claims, denies violations of either the Human Rights Act or Unfair Practices Act. It says McDaniel failed to participate in good faith and that the company has legitimate business reasons for its practice as well as measures to prevent discrimination."
A Planet Fitness attorney told the newspaper that the company's position is that it did not know McDaniel's head covering was for religious purposes but that it did violate the club's dress code. The attorney, Erika Anderson, declined to comment further, citing pending litigation. The case is scheduled to go to trial in August.
After the story was published by the Albuquerque Journal, Planet Fitness spokesperson McCall Gosselin told Club Industry that while the company is unable to comment on pending franchisee litigation, the Planet Fitness policy "is, and has always been, that members are allowed to wear head scarves for religious reasons in our clubs."
The New Mexico lawsuit comes on the heels of another story involving Planet Fitness, which is known for its "Judgment Free Zone," that has been making the rounds this week on the Internet.
A woman in Richmond, CA, claims the Planet Fitness club she joined Monday told her to put on a shirt because her outfit violated the club's dress code and that she was "intimidating people" with her "toned body," according to a report by Oakland, CA, TV station KTVU.
Tiffany Austin, who was wearing a tank top that showed her stomach in addition to Capri pants, says she agreed to wear a shirt, but when another staff member approached her about her outfit, Austin asked for her money back and left the club.
Gosselin told the TV station that the company's dress code is at the discretion of each club and its manager (most Planet Fitness clubs are franchised) but added that if Austin was criticized for being toned or fit, that behavior "is not in line with the Planet Fitness policy whatsoever."
In a statement sent to Club Industry, Gosselin said: "At Planet Fitness, we are committed to providing a comfortable and welcoming environment for all of our members. As such, Planet Fitness clubs have a dress code policy that is enforced at the staff's discretion. In this particular instance, club staff received complaints from several members about Ms. Austin’s attire. As a result, a staff member informed her of the dress code policy and also offered to provide her with a free T-shirt to complete her workout. Planet Fitness' dress code policy is based solely on attire and not physique, as members of all shapes and sizes are welcome in our clubs."