The California Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Western Athletic Clubs (now The Bay Club Co.), San Francisco, in a case related to membership discounts for young professionals.
On Dec. 11, the court ruled that The Bay Club Co. did not violate the Unruh Civil Rights Act when it offered a lower membership fee to members aged 18 to 29.
Daniel Javorsky, who had been a member of the clubs from 2008 to 2011, filed the lawsuit in January 2013 stating that the company's Young Professional membership discriminated against people in other age groups and not only violated the Unruh Civil Rights Act, but also the Consumers Legal Remedies Act and the unfair competition law.
The Young Professional membership, which started in 2003, charged people under 30 a $250 initiation fee and monthly dues of $97 for a single-club membership in 2008 compared to the $975 initiation fee and monthly dues of $154 that other age groups paid, according to the lawsuit. The membership was good at all but two of the company's locations.
The Bay Club Co. CEO Matthew Stevens said in the lawsuit that the Young Professionals membership program was intended to recruit younger individuals who might not otherwise be able to afford the membership so that they might eventually join as full members paying the full price.
The company contended that California law allows reasonable discounts for people who might not otherwise be able to afford to join its clubs.
The company shared data from a demographer that showed that the median income of people who qualify for the Young Professional membership in the counties where Western Athletic Clubs operates was lower than that of people over 30—in some instances the income was half as much.
Western Athletic Clubs also offered a discount program for people over 65 that The Bay Club Co. still offers. This program charged seniors $80 per month in 2013 compared to $140 per month for Young Professionals and $195 for other age groups for a standard individual membership. The senior membership only allows access to the 10 Bay Club locations during non-peak hours.
A previous ruling by a lower court had found that The Bay Club Co.'s Young Professional membership had not violated the Consumers Legal Remedies Act or the Unruh Civil Rights Act and that Javorsky's unfair competition law claim was "derivative."
Javorsky appealed that ruling, but the California Court of Appeals found "no arbitrary, unreasonable, or invidious discrimination" and therefore ruled in favor of Western Athletic Clubs/The Bay Club Co.
A spokesperson for The Bay Club Co. said that the company had no comment about the judgment.
The Bay Club ranked No. 9 on Club Industry's Top 100 Health Clubs list in 2015 with $162.36 million in 2014 revenue.