N.J.: Gym Pays for Race, Gender Bias

By Diane Cadrain May 14, 2015

Planet Fitness of Ewing has agreed to pay $25,000 to resolve allegations that it discriminated against a black employee first by denying her a promotion, then by dismissing her for an infraction other employees had committed without being fired.

According to the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, employee Rachel Bronner worked for Planet Fitness Ewing from June 2012 through early March of 2013. As a front-desk employee, she performed a variety of managerial functions, but alleged that, when an assistant manager position became available, she was passed over in favor of a less-qualified male co-worker.

When she filed a discrimination complaint, Planet Fitness management told investigators from the Division on Civil Rights that the male worker who received the promotion was “more mature, married and has real bills” as opposed to Bronner, who was single and “a young girl.” In its position paper, Planet Fitness Ewing described Bronner as a “good employee,” but said her “age/life experience” worked against her when considered for the promotion.

In addition to denying the promotion, Bronner also accused Planet Fitness Ewing of terminating her employment in March 2013 for leaving the facility in mid-day for a trip to Edison without specifying what time she would return. Bronner told the division that other employees had previously done that without being fired. An investigation report described as “quite dubious” the circumstances surrounding Bronner’s dismissal, and characterized the assertion by Planet Fitness that it had a strict policy of termination for such conduct as “simply not worthy of belief.”

In addition to paying Bronner $25,000, the settlement also required Planet Fitness Ewing to show the division that it has a current anti-harassment/anti-discrimination policy, and that it will provide training on the policy for all management and supervisory staff at the health club.

“Having fair and equitable employment practices – from hiring to compensation to promotions -- is not only good business, it is the law,” said Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman. “This case should serve as a message to employers throughout the state that we are committed to ensuring equality in the workplace, and to holding accountable those who fail to provide it.”

“When a business is trying to decide which of its workers should be promoted, it can rely on irrefutable performance factors or even highly subjective considerations,” said Division Director Craig T. Sashihara, “but not on the notion that a man with a family deserves to be paid more than a younger single woman. There may be employers in this State who feel that way. However, if they put those thoughts into action and take money out of a woman’s wallet, then they have broken the law.”

Diane Cadrain is an attorney who has been writing about employment law issues for more than 20 years.

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