Planet Fitness is under fire again, this time for rejecting the religious rights of an Albuquerque, New Mexico Muslim woman. Tarainia McDaniel was denied entrance into the gym as her traditional religious head covering violated the company’s dress code policy. According to Planet Fitness her religious head covering falls under the violation of “no bandanas”.
McDaniel has filed a lawsuit against the club and they have countered stating they doubted the head covering was for the purpose of religious observance. Earlier this month a Planet Fitness member in California was asked to cover up and then leave because her toned body was intimidating other patrons. The very mission statement off the company’s website states they seek to perfect a safe environment where everyone feels safe and respected. However that policy does not translate when a member is not allowed entrance due to her hijab, a veil or covering that covers the head and chest, specific to the guidelines in the Quran in the Muslim religion. McDaniel was originally wearing a head scarf when denied entrance, at which point she explained it was necessary to cover her hair in accordance to her religion and offered to switch into a more traditional head covering she was still denied entrance.
Planet Fitness is no stranger to controversy as early as 2006 another patron was escorted off the premises by local police for grunting in the gym, which is another violation of Planet Fitness’ policy. A gym so full of policies it is a wonder they can be full of members. In addition to the no bandanas, and no grunting rules the gym also prohibits; flexing, skimpy clothes, and toned members.
McDaniel signed a two-year contract in 2011 at which time she stated she advised staff of her religious dress code. McDaniel did not encounter any problems for the first few years until she moved and had to switch locations. A spokesperson for Planet Fitness released a statement regarding the incident in California saying, the dress code is at the discretion of the individual location’s managers and staff but the company’s goal is to make everyone comfortable.
Planet Fitness strives to make everyone comfortable as long as it does not interfere with their rules. A company that prides themselves on respecting everyone but then turns around and; denies gym entrance for a member wearing a religious head scarf, or to a member whose toned body is intimidating to other guests should revisit their mission statement. Perhaps the company could avoid some of these discrepancies if the rules were not left open to interpretation.
A gym can be a very intimidating place for someone who is just starting out, or for someone who has taken a considerable amount of time off. There has to be a way to respect the difference stages of individual’s work-out routines while at the same time respecting their physical appearance. Surely specifics can be drawn up regarding the rules which would eliminate such abstractions as denying a member entrance for wearing a religious head covering and leaving no room for subjective interpretation.
Perhaps Planet Fitness could have avoided this lawsuit if the dress code policy read, no bandanas or skull caps (all other head coverings subjected to individual approval). In this example Planet Fitness can still maintain the integrity of their “No Lunk” policy but remain closely tied to their mission statement of accepting and respecting everyone. However the company’s mission statement also includes they will not kiss butt, so McDaniel should not expect them to settle, because Planet Fitness may put up a fight.
Opinion By Debra Pittman