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24 Hour Fitness sued for job discrimination

July 13, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
The national gym chain 24 Hour Fitness is being sued. A Latino civil rights group accuses 24 Hour Fitness of racial and gender discrimination against its own employees. Even though the six plaintiffs are from Northern California, they, along with their lawyers, allege that 24 Hour Fitness and its lack of promoting minorities and women to top management positions is based in part on race and gender, and that the practice is companywide. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and a Northern California law firm filed suit against the health club chain Tuesday.

"24 Hour Fitness has approximately 200 clubs in California and we allege that there is a pattern throughout those clubs of discriminating in promotions and equal pay on the basis of race and/or gender," said Thomas Saenz, MALDEF president.

The three plaintiffs at MALDEF's downtown L.A. office claim they met all of the sales goals the company set, but were not promoted. They claim less experienced white males were promoted over them.

"I'm an ex-athlete, and I believe in the coach gives the ball to the person who wants it the most, who performs the best, and that's not the case here," said Raoul Fulcher Jr., a 24 Hour Fitness employee.

"I felt as if all of my hard work, my time away from my family and everything I'd poured into the company, was passed over and overlooked so that yet another male, a Caucasian male, could be promoted instead of me," said Rebecca Mason, a former employee of the company.

What they're asking for, in part, is to be judged fairly when it comes to promotion opportunities within the company.

"I love the industry. I love helping people. That's why I came to this field, but I don't agree with the discrimination and I don't respect that," said Richard Lopez, a 24 Hour Fitness employee.

24 Hour Fitness released a statement Tuesday:

"24 Hour Fitness is an Equal Employment Opportunity Employer and we are deeply committed to providing a work environment that is free from unlawful discrimination. 24 Hour Fitness makes its hiring and promotional decisions without regard to race, national origin, gender or any other protected basis. We firmly deny the allegations made in the complaint and we expect to prevail when all the facts are heard."

Four of the six plaintiffs in this lawsuit still work for 24 Hour Fitness. The case is expected to go to court later this year.


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