Religion

Planet Fitness Turns Away Muslim Woman Because of her Head Covering

| by Lina Batarags

A Muslim woman was barred from entering a Planet Fitness gym in Albuquerque after an employee decided that the head covering she was wearing didn’t meet the gym’s dress code.

Now, Tarainia McDaniel, a married mother of two, has filed a case against Planet Fitness in which she claims that the gym illegally based the decision to deny her access upon her religion or her race.

Muslim faith requires that women cover their hair. The lawsuit explains that when McDaniel, 37, tried to explain her religion’s requirements to the gym employees, she was told “only that she could wear a baseball cap.”

McDaniel joined Planet Fitness on a two-year contract; the incident occurred when she switched to a different gym location.

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On Oct. 3, 2011, she tried to enter the gym on Irving Boulevard on Albuquerque’s West Side, only to find herself turned away. Even after McDaniel even offered to change into the hijab, the former head covering, the gym refused to accommodate her religious requirements.

McDaniel told employees that she would have to cancel her membership. As described in her lawsuit, employees told her she would have to pay a cancellation fee, and would have to go to another gym location to cancel the membership.

According to the complaint, a gym employee told McDaniel that while the dress code was sometimes waived, in her particular case it could not be – because her head covering was red.

McDaniel filed a civil lawsuit under the New Mexico Human Rights act and the Unfair Practices Act. She claims that the gym had no legitimate or non-pretextual reason to deny her entry.

Planet Fitness attorney Erika Anderson stated that her client “didn’t know the head covering was for religious purposes. It violated their dress code policy.”

Planet Fitness has formally denied violating either the Human Rights Act or the Unfair Practices Act. The gym claims that it has legitimate business reasons for its practices, as well as measures to prevent discrimination.

Although McDaniel acknowledged in the deposition that she recalled seeing a sign at Planet Fitness that proclaimed “no jeans, work boots, bandanas, skull caps or revealing apparel,” she also stated that before she signed the contract with the gym, she had made it known that she covers her hair.

In response to being asked whether she told the gym employees that she was Muslim, McDaniel’s response was short and clear: “I sure did.”

The trial is to be held in August.

Sources: http://www.abqjournal.com, http://www.usatoday.com

Photo Source: http://www.abqjournal.com