Planet Fitness, the national gym chain known for its cheap monthly rates and “Judgment Free Zone” slogan, faces a lawsuit from a New Mexico Muslim woman who says she was asked to leave the gym because she was wearing a head scarf.
According to the Albuquerque Journal, 37-year-old Tarainia McDaniel is suing Planet Fitness for barring her from entering one of its Albuquerque, N.M., locations on the grounds that her head scarf, which she was wearing for religious reasons, violated Planet Fitness’ dress code. The gym, which became the sponsor of NBC’s reality show “The Biggest Loser” in 2012 and whose equipment appears on that show, prohibits its members from wearing bandanas, skull caps and “revealing apparel.”
The lawsuit states that on Oct. 3, 2011, McDaniel entered the gym, like she has done on many others occasions, but that this time, the gym's staff asked her to leave because she was wearing the head scarf.
McDaniel says she suggested she go home and put on a traditional hijab, the formal head covering worn by many Muslim women, instead of the brightly colored head scarf she already had on. But the gym reportedly denied McDaniel’s request to switch her head covering.
The lawsuit, filed under the New Mexico Human Rights Act and the Unfair Practices Act, claims that Planet Fitness denied McDaniel, an African-American Muslim convert, access to its facility based on her religion or on her race. In her deposition, McDaniel said she made sure to tell the gym's staff that she was Muslim and that she was wearing a head scarf because her religion required her to do so.
“I already made it known before I signed the contract that I covered my hair,” she said, according to the Albuquerque Journal. “I had on [what] I call a head covering. I guess for the sake of the record, they’re referring to it as a head covering.”
Planet Fitness denies violating either the Human Rights Act or the Unfair Practices Act. The company's attorney Erika Anderson maintained that McDaniel failed to comply with the gym’s dress code by wearing the scarf.
"At Planet Fitness, our policy is, and has always been, that members are allowed to wear head scarves for religious reasons in our clubs," Anderson said, according to New York Daily News. “My client’s position is that they didn’t know the head covering was for religious purposes. It violated their dress code policy.”
McDaniel’s case is scheduled for August.
This isn’t the first time Planet Fitness has faced criticism for kicking someone out of one of its facilities. Last week, a woman in California was asked to put a shirt on at the gym because her toned body was “intimidating people.” KTVU reports that the woman was wearing a tank top that revealed her stomach. She asked for her money back after several staff members approached her about putting a shirt on.