Röbynn Europe, a talented Black personal trainer, found herself embroiled in a battle against discrimination at the Equinox gym.
Hired in 2018, Europe quickly ascended the ranks to become the overseer of a team of 15 employees.
However, her meteoric rise soon collided with a “toxic atmosphere” from a White colleague.
According to CBS News, the colleague talked trash about Black women’s bodies and took issue with having a Black boss.
The Black Personal Trainer Was Fired Unceremoniously
Alas, Europe’s tenure at Equinox was short-lived.
Less than a year after joining the gym, she was fired, prompting her to file a lawsuit that delved into the heart of the matter.
In her legal battle, Europe alleged she faced discrimination based on her race and gender.
The Black personal trainer further claimed that Equinox fired her in retaliation for calling out her colleagues’ racist and sexist behavior.
Meanwhile, the gym cited her chronic tardiness—47 instances of it during her 11-month stint—as the reason why they fired her.
A judge dismissed her retaliation claim last year, but the case soldiered on.
Fast forward to the present month.
A jury of five women and three men stood by Europe’s side, awarding her a jaw-dropping $11.25 million in damages.
This generous sum includes a hefty $10 million in punitive damages slapped upon the gym, as documented in court records.
Toxic workplaces, unfortunately, plague the lives of countless employees, adversely affecting their performance and bleeding into their personal lives.
Europe’s lawsuit painted a vivid picture of demoralization, “substantial emotional distress,” and the exacerbation of her bulimia while she worked at Equinox.
Susan Crumiller, an attorney representing Europe, delivered a powerful statement following the jury’s verdict.
“The jury sent a loud message to Equinox that there are serious consequences for corporations that permit racist and sexist behavior in the workplace. We are also pleased that the jury found Equinox’s racism had a severe and lasting impact on Röbynn’s mental health and that she deserved to be compensated for it.”
Following the jury’s decision, the judge ordered both parties to engage in discussions with a magistrate judge to explore the possibility of a settlement.
Equinox, eager to have its say, denied any tolerance for discrimination “in any form.”
They maintained that the termination was solely based on performance, and even filed a motion seeking to overturn the jury’s decision on the Black personal trainer.
Equinox, often associated with upscale fitness centers boasting over 100 locations from New York City to San Francisco, has established itself as the epitome of fitness luxury.
With membership costs soaring into the stratosphere and amenities like “Eucalyptus steam rooms” and swanky juice bars, the gym’s reputation precedes it.
Europe worked at Equinox’s Upper East Side location on East 92nd Street–this is where she encountered the racist colleague.
The Black personal trainer brought her concerns to the attention of the company, expecting them to address and rectify the issues.
Instead, she became the target of retaliation.
Curiously, the employee responsible for the offensive comments was among those who habitually waltzed into work well after their official start times.
The lawsuit further claimed this employee had a penchant for leaving work early without consequences.
Understandably, Europe felt singled out and subject to selective enforcement of time and attendance policies to retaliate for her engagement in legally protected activities.
Just months after voicing her grievances about the toxic work environment, Equinox fired the Black personal trainer, citing her tardiness as the grounds for her dismissal.
In addition to the $10 million in punitive damages, the jury gave the Black personal trainer $1.25 million in compensatory damages and $16,000 representing back pay as economic damages.
In this grand saga of workplace strife, justice was served.
Yet, the story does not end here, as both sides have to meet a magistrate judge for a potential resolution.