U.S. gym faces lawsuit over Muslim head covering
Tarainia McDaniel filed a lawsuit after a New Mexico gym prevented her from using the gym while wearing her hijab
A gym refused to let a Muslim woman wear her religious head covering when she tried to work out, according to a new lawsuit against the company.
An attorney for Tarainia McDaniel, 37, recently filed the lawsuit in a New Mexico district court stemming from a 2011 clash at a Planet Fitness that prevented McDaniel from using the gym while wearing the head covering, even though court documents said another Planet Fitness in the area had previously let her do so, the Albuquerque Journal reports (http://goo.gl/lqi6Xj).
McDaniel joined the New Hampshire-based gym chain Planet Fitness in Albuquerque on a two-year contract and later transferred to another location, according to the lawsuit.
On Oct. 3, 2011, she was turned away at her new gym and was told the informal head covering didn’t meet its dress code, the lawsuit states. The gym had a sign that said “no jeans, work boots, bandanas, skull caps or revealing apparel.”
McDaniel said she asked to be allowed to wear the informal head covering to accommodate her Muslim faith, and she even asked if she should come back wearing a formal head covering known as the hijab, according to the lawsuit.
But the gym denied her requests, the lawsuit states.
Planet Fitness attorney Erika Anderson said the head covering violates the gym’s dress-code policy. “My client’s position is that they didn't know the head covering was for religious purposes,” Anderson said.
Anderson said she could not comment further on pending litigation.
In a statement, the company said gyms take into account members’ religious affiliations. “At Planet Fitness, our policy is, and has always been, that members are allowed to wear head scarves for religious reasons in our clubs,” the company said.
McDaniel’s civil lawsuit, filed under the New Mexico Human Rights Act and the Unfair Practices Act, alleges that Planet Fitness illegally based the decision to deny her access upon her religion, or alternatively upon her race - she is African-American - and that the gym had no legitimate reason to deny her entry.
Planet Fitness, in its formal answer to the claims, denies violations of either the Human Rights Act or Unfair Practices Act. It says McDaniel failed to participate in good faith and that the company has legitimate business reasons for its practice as well as measures to prevent discrimination.