An ex-LA Fitness employee from Louisiana has filed a discrimination claim against the California-based health club chain. The claim says her supervisor criticized her hairstyle and used a racial slur before firing her.
In a March 2018 claim submitted to the Louisiana Commission on Human Rights (LCHR), Aireial Mack, 26, alleges her white supervisor, Blake Mata, removed her from the employee shift schedule at an LA Fitness club in Slidell, Louisiana, citing Mack's Afro hairstyle, according to a report by the Associated Press. Mack alleges Mata used a slur in a text message sent to Mack, stating that her hairstyle was not classy and did not meet LA Fitness standards, according to a report by local media outlet WWL-TV.
Mack was fired shortly after she complained to the club's general manager, Mark Mayeux, who said Mack's excessive use of sick days and poor work ethic were the reasons for her termination.
The LCHR investigated Mack's claim and asserted that LA Fitness violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which protects against workplace discrimination. According to WWL-TV, LA Fitness offered Mack a $2,000 settlement, but she instead decided to file a lawsuit.
Mack claims she overheard club staff, including the general manager, using racial slurs on multiple occasions and even possesses recordings of these episodes.
“It broke me," Mack told WWL-TV about her four months of employment at LA Fitness. "Because I didn't think that's how they felt about me. You know, they made comments, but I was like, wow. They hate me."
Mack also told WWL-TV she was late to work several times but never formally reprimanded for poor job performance.
Angelle Torres, a former manager at the club, told The Advocate that she often overheard Mata and Mayeux use racially inappropriate language.
"It was sickening to have to sit there and bear witness to it," Torres said. "But I had to feed my family. I didn't have a choice. I was scared to speak up and say anything about it because I didn't want to lose my job.”
On Sept. 25, LA Fitness vice president Jill Grueling told The Advocate she was looking into the discrimination claims against the company.
LA Fitness did not immediately respond to Club Industry's request for comment.