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On July 13, 24 Hour Fitness, a nation-wide fitness company, became the subject of an employment discrimination suit. The suit, filed in Alameda, California accuses the fitness company of systematic racial and gender discrimination against its California employees. The suit will seek class action status and claims damages of lost wages and unspecified punitive damages.
The Associated Press reports that one of the lead legal representatives for the plaintiffs is the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. The plaintiffs' attorneys say that black, Latino, Asian and female employees systematically hit road blocks when they apply for management positions at some of the company's fitness clubs. 24 Hour Fitness has approximately 200 clubs in California.
The suit claims that the discrimination can take place because the company has no uniform criteria for promotions but instead allows regional vice presidents to make such decisions in a "subjective and arbitrary process." According to the AP, the plaintiffs claim most of those decision makers are white men. The suit also alleges that non-white managers are paid at a lower rate.
It is illegal under both state and federal law to discriminate on the basis of race, gender or national origin. The best known of employment anti-discrimination laws is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII prohibits an employer with fifteen or more employees from discriminating on the basis of race, national origin, gender, or religion. It is illegal for an employer to take any of the following actions against an employee based upon his or her race, national origin, gender, or religion: refuse to hire; discipline; fire; deny training; fail to promote; pay less or demote; or harass. The 24 Hour Fitness plaintiffs claim several of these prohibited actions were taken by the company.
The company said in a statement it is "deeply committed to providing a work environment that is free from unlawful discrimination and retaliation" and "makes its hiring and promotional decisions without regard to race, national origin, gender or any other protected basis."