Equinox Luxury Fitness Club ordered to pay woman $11.3M in racial discrimination lawsuit

Francis Akhalbey May 30, 2023
Röbynn Europe filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against Equinox -- Photo via Daily Mail

Röbynn Europe, a personal former trainer at Equinox, was awarded $11.3 million by a jury after she filed a lawsuit against the luxury fitness club alleging she was fired for calling out racism and sexism at the company.

According to CBS News, the jury ordered Equinox to pay Europe $10 million in punitive damages as well as $1.25 million in compensatory damages. She was also awarded an extra $16,000 in economic damages for back pay.

Europe started working with the luxury fitness club in 2018 before she was eventually promoted to supervise a group of 15 workers. However, shortly after assuming that role, the Black woman claimed that a White employee created a “toxic atmosphere” by making multiple vulgar statements about Black women’s bodies. The White employee is also said to have taken issue with having to work under Europe.

The company ultimately fired Europe less than a year after she was employed. Though the company claimed they fired her because she had reported late to work on several occasions, the Black woman alleged in the 2020 lawsuit that she was rather terminated for raising issues about racism and sexism at the fitness club. A judge who presided over the case threw down the retaliation allegation but allowed the trial to go ahead with the race and gender bias claims being the focal point.

The lawsuit claimed that Europe’s alleged ordeal at Equinox took a toll on her morale, made her suffer “substantial emotional distress” and also worsened her bulimia, CBS News reported.

“The jury sent a loud message to Equinox that there are serious consequences for corporations that permit racist and sexist behavior in the workplace,” Europe’s attorney, Susan Crumiller, said in a statement. 

“We are also pleased that 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.”

Europe and the White employee accused of making the racist and sexist comments both worked at one of the gym’s locations in New York City. The lawsuit alleged that though Europe raised issues about the employee’s behavior, the company rather “targeted” her for “reprisals” instead of addressing and fixing those issues.

The company allegedly targeted Europe for her lateness. While the Black woman confirmed there were instances where she had shown up late for work, she claimed other workers who occasionally failed to come in on time were not punished

The lawsuit also alleged Europe “was never late for a training appointment with a client, never kept a client waiting, and regularly stayed an hour or more past the end of her shift regardless of what time she had arrived.”

The White man accused of making the racist and sexist comments was said to be part of the workers who “regularly arrived at work well after their official start times without consequence” the lawsuit stated, adding that the same employee “often left work early without repercussion.”

The lawsuit also alleged that the company’s actions with regard to handling lateness made the Black woman feel she “was being singled out for selective enforcement of time and attendance policies in retaliation for having engaged in legally protected activities”, per CBS News.

Her lawyer stated that “swipe-in data” that was made available during the trial showed that reporting and attendance times of other Equinox colleagues were worse than Europe’s – though she was the only employee who faced punishment. 

Responding to the decision by the jury in a statement, Equinox said it does not entertain “any form” of discrimination. “This is a case of termination for performance related to attendance, and nothing more,” the company said.

“[W]e vehemently disagree with the jury’s finding, as well as the unjust and excessive award, and have filed a motion seeking to have the judge overturn the jury’s decision.”

Last Edited by:Editor Updated: June 11, 2023


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