Monday, June 17, 2024

Former Equinox trainer Robynn Europe wins $11.25 million from former employer in lawsuit

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High-end gym chain Equinox has been ordered to pay $11.25 million to one of their former trainers after her lawyers convinced a New York jury that her firing was racially motivated and not because she showed up for work late 47 times. 

In the jury trial, Robynn Europe, 39, did not contest Equinox’s allegations about her tardiness but said other trainers who were late a similar amount of times were not punished, reports the New York Times. 

Online records show that Europe lives close to the Coney Island section of Brooklyn, New York, the southern-most tip of the borough. It’s around 17 miles to the Equinox gym, located on 92nd street in the affluent Upper East Side neighborhood of Manhattan.

The jury found that Europe, a former professional bodybuilder, had been subjected to a hostile work environment and unlawfully fired her on the basis of both her race and gender

Europe testified that a manager who reported to her, Christopher Maltman, often made vulgar comments about black women’s bodies, diverted personal training clients away from employees of color and regularly harassed staff with offensive language.

Former Equinox trainer Robynn Europe said that she was fired from her job at the swanky uptown gym due to racial discrimination

Europe alleged in her lawsuit that she was subjected to multiple instances of sexual and racial discrimination at the gym, shown here

Europe alleged in her lawsuit that she was subjected to multiple instances of sexual and racial discrimination at the gym, shown here 

Her lawyers argued that rather than address Europe’s complaints, they used her lateness as a pretext to terminate her. A statement from her lawyers says that Maltman still works at the gym. 

Europe was represented in the trial by Crumiller, known as the feminist litigation firm. 

In a statement, Susan Crumiller called Equinox’s behavior ‘appalling’ and said that ‘justice prevailed.’

‘This is not just a victory for our client, but for all Black women who have suffered that noxious combination of racism and sexism that is too often tolerated in the workplace. We could not be prouder of Röbynn for her relentless determination to hold Equinox accountable for its vile misogynoir,’ Crumiller said. 

Europe compared her treatment at Equinox to her experiences as a scholarship student at the exclusive Brearley School on East 83rd Street in an interview with the Times where she says she was subjected to similar casual racism. 

The Times report says the jury that awarded Europe millions of dollars was predominantly white and consisted of five women and three men. 

Europe told the Times that she has been working as a trainer since 2006, using that to become a professional bodybuilder. Previously, she studied art in college and aspired to be a tattoo artist.  

Europe, right, was a former professional bodybuilder, and referred to herself as a 'lardo' before she starting working in an office job at a New York gym

Europe, right, was a former professional bodybuilder, and referred to herself as a ‘lardo’ before she starting working in an office job at a New York gym 

Europe compared her treatment at Equinox to her experiences as a scholarship student at the exclusive Brearley School on East 83rd Street in an interview

Europe compared her treatment at Equinox to her experiences as a scholarship student at the exclusive Brearley School on East 83rd Street in an interview

‘Racism and sexism — they are just pervasive in the fitness industry,’ Europe said. She described those in power in the industry as being predominantly white and male. 

‘In coastal cities, training is something you can do without a degree and you can make $75 an hour — there are not a lot of opportunities to do that, so it’s a big draw for people of color,’ Europe added. 

Her lawyers argued that Maltman refused to accept Europe as his superior in the workplace. They said Maltman openly said that he wanted to fired nonwhite employees and called one ‘autistic.’ 

In another instance, Maltman was accused of ‘demanding’ that Europe stand with him outside to that he could make a pass at a young black woman who was leaving work close to the gym. They said that Maltman thought he would look better if he was with a black person when he made his approach. 

'Racism and sexism ¿ they are just pervasive in the fitness industry,' Europe said

‘Racism and sexism — they are just pervasive in the fitness industry,’ Europe said

Europe also accused Equinox of obliging at least one customer’s request, a white man, to have a white trainer. The same day that she made a complaint about this, she was issued with a second formal warning over lateness. That was three months before she was fired. 

The manager who obliged the request for a white trainer was eventually fired.  

All of this led to Europe having a relapse of bulimia that she has battled for most of her life. The bulimia got so bad that she began to vomit blood.  

Equinox is planning to appeal the jury’s decision. 

Europe was formerly a trainer at The Sports Center at Chelsea Piers in New York City, while there, she was featured in Racked.com’s ‘Hottest Trainer Contest.’ 

In an interview with the website, Europe said that she was ‘the least athletic person you will ever meet. I was pretty much a total lardo until I decided I wanted to get my life/health/body together and become a trainer.’ 

She also spoke about her love of New York City’s hardcore and punk music scene as well as a love of nail art, something she utilized during her bodybuilding career. 

‘A lot of times women who bodybuild get labeled manly, but nothing says feminine like a Hello Kitty manicure with pink bows and shit attached to your nails,’ she told Vice in a separate 2011 interview. 

In that interview, Europe said that she has been straight edge for most of her life, not drinking, smoking or using drugs, including marijuana. 

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