High-end gym chain Equinox must pay $11.25 million to one of their former trainers after her lawyers convinced a jury in New York that her firing was racially motivated and not because she was late for work 47 times.
In the jury trial, Robynn Europe, 39, did not dispute Equinox’s claims about her tardiness, but said other trainers who were late a similar number of times were not penalized, reports the New York Times.
Online records indicate that Europa lives close to the Coney Island section of Brooklyn, New York, the southernmost tip of the borough. It’s about 17 miles to the Equinox gym, located on 92nd Street in Manhattan’s affluent Upper East Side neighborhood.
The jury found that Europe, a former professional bodybuilder, had been subjected to a hostile work environment and had unfairly fired her based on both her race and gender.
Europe testified that a manager who reported to her, Christopher Maltman, often made vulgar remarks about black women’s bodies, diverted personal training clients from employees of color, and regularly harassed staff with offensive language.
Former Equinox trainer Robynn Europe said she was fired from her job at the posh gym in the uptown over racial discrimination
Europe claimed in her lawsuit that she was a victim of multiple instances of sexual and racial discrimination at the gym, as seen here
Her lawyers argued that instead of responding to Europe’s complaints, they used her lateness as a pretext to fire her. A statement from her lawyers says Maltman is still working at the gym.
Europe was represented in the trial by Crumiller, known as the Feminist Litigation Office.
In a statement, Susan Crumiller called Equinox’s behavior “appalling” and said “justice prevailed.”
“This is a win not only for our client, but for all Black women who have faced that harmful combination of racism and sexism that is all too often tolerated in the workplace. We couldn’t be more proud of Robynn for her unwavering determination to hold Equinox accountable for its vile misogyny,” Crumiller said.
Europa 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 subject to similar casual racism.
According to the Times report, the jury that awarded Europe millions of dollars was mostly white and consisted of five women and three men.
Europe told the Times that she has been working as a trainer since 2006 and is using that to become a professional bodybuilder. Previously, she studied art in college and aspired to become a tattoo artist.
Europe, right, was a former professional bodybuilder and called herself a “lardo” before she started working in a desk 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
“Racism and sexism – they are ubiquitous in the fitness industry,” Europa said. She described those in power in the industry as predominantly white and male.
“In coastal cities, working out is something you can do without a degree and you can make $75 an hour — there aren’t many 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 he wanted to fire non-white employees and called someone “autistic.”
In another case, Maltman was accused of “demanding” Europe stand outside with him so he could pass a young black woman leaving work close to the gym. They said Maltman thought he would look better if he was with a black person when he approached.
“Racism and sexism – they are ubiquitous in the fitness industry,” Europa said
Europe also accused Equinox of requiring at least one customer, a white man, to have a white trainer. On the same day she filed a complaint about this, she received a second formal warning for being late. That was three months before she was fired.
The manager who complied with 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 started vomiting blood.
Equinox plans to appeal the jury’s decision.
Europe used to be a trainer at The Sports Center at Chelsea Piers in New York City while she was seen there from Racked.com “Hottest Trainer Contest.”
In an interview with the website, Europe said she was “the least athletic person you will ever meet.” I was kind of a total lardo until I decided I wanted to get my life/health/body in order and become a trainer.”
She also talked about her love for the New York City hardcore and punk music scene, as well as her love for nail art, something she used throughout her bodybuilding career.
“Often women who bodybuild are labeled as masculine, but nothing says feminine like a Hello Kitty manicure with pink bows and shit on your nails,” she shared. Shame in a separate 2011 interview.
In that interview, Europe said she has been straight most of her life, doesn’t drink, smoke or use drugs, including marijuana.