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02 Jun 2023

Equinox tells HCM it plans to fight $11.25m race discrimination ruling
BY Tom Walker

Equinox says it will fight the court's race discrimination ruling

Equinox says it will fight the court's race discrimination ruling
photo: Shutterstock/Michael Vi

Lifestyle brand Equinox has told HCM it plans to fight a ruling by the US courts that it must pay pay US$11.25m to a former employee who claimed she was discriminated against due to race, saying it "vehemently disagrees with the jury’s finding".

Röbynn Europe, a black female personal trainer, started work at Equinox's club on 92nd Street in New York in November 2018, but was sacked in September 2019. The ensuing court case has just concluded.

According to Europe, during her time working for Equinox she made multiple complaints to management about being subjected to a racially hostile environment at the club.

She sued the company in September 2020, citing unlawful dismissal and discrimination, testifying that a manager who reported to her often made inappropriate comments about black women's bodies, diverted personal training clients away from employees of colour and harassed staff with offensive language.

In response, Equinox denied the claims and said her dismissal was purely down to bad attendance.

Equinox said she had twice been warned about being late for work. Despite this, the company said she had been late for work on nine occasions in approximately three weeks during September 2019, as well as a further 15 times out of 22 scheduled shifts in August 2019.

In court, the jury found in her favour, agreeing that she had been subject to a hostile working environment.

Europe did not contest the allegations about her late arrival at work but showed that other trainers who were late on a similar number of occasions were not disciplined or sacked. She also presented evidence to show that she had never missed a client appointment and often stayed late when needed.

She was awarded US$1.25m in compensatory damages and $10m in punitive damages, as well as $16,000 in economic damages representing back pay.

Equinox denies the accusations of discrimination and is looking to overturn the decision.

Speaking to HCM, a spokesperson said: “We do not tolerate discrimination in any form.

"This was a case of termination for performance that relates to attendance and nothing more. Her claims of bias are completely baseless and uncorroborated

"We worked with Ms. Europe over a period of months to address repeated issues related to her tardiness and attendance (arriving late 47 times during her 11 months with the company), which she agreed needed improvement.

"Other employees have been terminated for similar patterns of tardiness and attendance."

Susan Crumiller, Europe lawyer from feminist litigation firm Crumiller, said: “We could not be more thrilled with this outcome. The jury sent a loud message to Equinox that there are serious consequences for corporations that permit racist and sexist behavior in the workplace.

"We are also pleased the jury found Equinox’s racism had a severe and lasting impact on Röbynn’s mental health and that she deserved to be compensated for it," said Crumiller. "Let this be a warning to all businesses in New York that if you try to brush harassment and discrimination under the rug, you will not get away with it.”

HCM will report on the appeal in due course.

The full verdict of the case can be accessed and read here.

Equinox Group has a portfolio of wellness brands with 300 properties globally, including Equinox Fitness, Equinox Hotels, SoulCycle, Blink Fitness, Equinox Media, Pure Yoga, Furthermore and Precision Run.

It also launched E by Equinox, a high-end, customised wellness offering which functions out of two clubs – in London and New York.

The company’s Equinox+ App gives access to on-demand workouts, recovery and mental health support from Equinox, SoulCycle, Solidcore, TB12, Pure Yoga, Precision Run and HeadStrong.



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