A woman who claims she was told to cover up by a Planet Fitness staffer because her “toned body” was intimidating other patrons has revealed to theGrio that she is considering filing a lawsuit against the gym chain.
Tiffany Austin, who happens to be a UC Berkeley law graduate, said she is weighing up all her options and making up her mind what to do next.
“I’m definitely considering it, particularly if there’s some sort of pattern that’s been recognized by other people and other Planet Fitness facilities,” she said. “I know there are multiple potential causes of action but I have to look at the law and precedent and see how that works.”
Her story went viral two weeks ago following reports that she was asked by a Planet Fitness employee to put on a shirt to cover her pink spaghetti strap tank top and capri pants at a location in Richmond, California.
Austin said she’d just joined the gym to get back in shape after a car accident and was pacing herself on a treadmill when a member of staff approached her.
“[A Planet Fitness employee] said we’ve been getting complaints,” Austin alleges. “You’re intimidating other members with your toned physique.”
Austin claims she agreed but felt increasingly harassed when a second worker chastised her as she waited for the first employee to bring her a shirt. Feeling pressured, she quit her membership barely 15 minutes into her first workout there.
“In this particular instance, club staff received complaints from several members about Ms. Austin’s attire,” said McCall Gosselin, at spokesman for Planet Fitness, in a statement to theGrio. “As a result, a staff member informed her of the dress code policy and also offered to provide her with a free t-shirt to complete her workout. Planet Fitness’ dress code policy is based solely on attire and not physique, as members of all shapes and sizes are welcome in our clubs.”
Still, Diana Hex, a Los Angeles based professional dancer and celebrity trainer, said she believes the staff acted like the “Fashion Gestapo.”
“Nothing in Tiffany’s clothing choice was inappropriate or fitness risqué,” said Hex. “As a matter of fact, Ms. Austin’s attire is one of the most common women’s fitness clothing styles in retail stores.”
“As for the staff’s comments about complaints from other members because of her toned body, isn’t that the ultimate desire of everyone coming to the gym to workout?,” she added.
Planet Fitness, a national chain with more than 600 locations, has boasted a rapid rise in membership based on low monthly fees and a “No Gymtimidation” mantra of creating a judgment-free zone for members to work out.
They have controversial rules in place to discourage bodybuilders, power-lifters and “grunters.” “Lunk alarms,” a siren and flashing lights, are installed in clubs to call out members who breech gym etiquette.
“The other thing is you don’t know why someone is shaped the way they are, whether they are bigger or smaller. It could just be their genetics,” said Austin. “All this fixation on that [body type] is really bizarre. The focus should be on the health and welfare of their members.”
In an interesting twist, Austin, a professional singer who has toured with Roy Ayers, is writing a song in parody to her Planet Fitness encounter. The single, which is due to be released in a matter of weeks, is titled “Intimidation.”
“I’m 5’2” and 110 pounds, who wouldn’t be intimidated by that? It’s so absurd. I need to point out the absurdity of the Planet Fitness model,” said Austin.
In another unrelated case, a woman named Tarainia McDaniel recently filed a lawsuit against a Planet Fitness in New Mexico, over an incident that occurred in October 2011, claiming that the gym wouldn’t allow her to wear her religious head covering when she tried to exercise there.
The chain was also the subject of controversy in 2006 after one of its gyms cancelled a patron’s membership for reportedly “grunting.” Albert Argibay was eventually removed by police from the Planet Fitness in Wappingers Falls, New York, though he claims he was just was just breathing heavily.
Follow Kunbi Tinuoye on Twitter at @Kunbiti