LA Fitness Changes Policy That Discriminated Against People With Disabilities
On Wednesday, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced that LA Fitness, which operates more than 300 gyms in the U.S. and Canada, must change a policy that discriminates against people with disabilities.
The attorney general’s office began investigating Fitness International, LLC, LA Fitness’s parent company, after receiving multiple complaints that people with disabilities were being forced to pay gym fees for their aides.
One of the complainants, Claudia Ciatto, said her son with a disability had to cancel his gym membership after LA Fitness employees barred him from entering the gym without paying a guest fee for the licensed nurse who was required to be with him while he exercised. “People with disabilities have the right to be treated with the same respect and consideration that any other person is given,” Ciatto said in a press release from the attorney general. “No one has the right to lessen a person’s worth. This facility clearly discriminated against my son and we couldn’t be happier that we have become part of changing its policy.”
Under Title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act, places of public accommodation – like a gym and other membership-based places open to the public – are required to modify their policies to accomodate people with disabilities. By charging disabled members additional fees for their aids – who were not exercising but assisting – was discrimination.
“My office is committed to vigorously enforcing the Americans with Disabilities Act, which promises all New Yorkers the opportunity to live fully and independently regardless of disability status,” Schneiderman said. “Businesses have a responsibility to make reasonable accommodations that increase accessibility for New Yorkers, and I am pleased that LA Fitness has agreed to take important steps to ensure equal access for all at their facilities.”
As part of the resolution, LA Fitness has agreed to waive membership fees for those whom require an aide to exercise. The gym will also train employees so they are familiar with the new policies as well as local and federal accessibility laws. According to the Attorney General’s office, these changes affect the 29 NewYork branches of LA Fitness.
Update: According to Jill Grueling, Fitness International’s executive vice president of operations, the agreement between LA Fitness and the attorney general’s office did not change LA Fitness policy.
“For years it has been the policy in all of our clubs nationwide, not just the New York clubs, to not charge for a caregiver who is there to help or accompany one of our members. This agreement being referenced did not change our policy in any way, but merely re-affirmed our commitment to that policy and our desire to provide full and equal access to our club facilities and services. In fact, in the one incident that led to this agreement, the member was told when the membership was purchased that he would not have to pay for his caregiver(s) to enter the club with him. Unfortunately, a misunderstanding later arose as to whether a person accompanying that member on a club visit was truly a caregiver. We regret this misunderstanding, and for that reason, this agreement was entered.”
Photo credit: GFDL