Equinox Holdings Inc., New York, has settled a class action lawsuit brought by former employees who alleged that the company failed to pay them fully or provide breaks for them, according to an article by Law360.com. However, court filings show that Equinox faces other suits related to wage claims, including one in which a former employee alleges he was told to alter time cards.
The Los Angeles County, Calif., Superior Court gave preliminary approval Friday to the settlement of the class action suit. It calls for a maximum of $4 million. Of that amount, each of the named plaintiffs would receive $25,000. The remaining members of the class--could receive $22.94 for shifts worked between March 2008 and October 2014. The workers were aestheticians, massage therapists and nail technicians.
The suit, filed in March 2012, was brought by Nicole Leisinger-Reed, Tanya L. Fox and Ve Magni, former employees of an Equinox in West Hollywood, CA. The three contended that Equinox did not give them meal and rest breaks and did not pay all the wages they were due as non-exempt employees.
This is not the only wage-related lawsuit Equinox faces. In July 2014, Gavin Sykes, a former operations administrator at Equinox, filed a suit in Los Angeles County Superior Court alleging Equinox failed to pay wages, provide an accurate itemized wage statement, and provide meal and rest periods. He also alleges wrongful termination and racial and sexual orientation discrimination.
According to Sykes' suit, he began working at Equinox in January 2013 as a front desk associate and was promoted to an operations administrator a few weeks later. In this role, he had to report meal and rest break violations and ensure that the employee time card entries were properly recorded. Instead, the suit contends, his supervisor instructed him to "cleanse company records and time cards of wages paid and actual time worked by employees" and "alter time cards to reflect that Equinox employees were taking meal and rest breaks in accordance with California law, even if they were not, to relieve Equinox from further liability."
Sykes alleges that when he refused to falsify the time cards, he was demoted to the front desk, where he says he was the target of both racial and sexual orientation discrimination as a gay African American man. He alleges that his manager called him pet names and sexually harassed him. In addition, Sykes alleges that the supervisor made comments that Sykes "did not look or act black" and "would often question a black person's ability to pay the high Equinox membership fees, suggesting black people were poor," according to the lawsuit.
In addition, Sykes asserts that he was not paid for overtime hours worked and was not given proper meal breaks and rest periods. On May 23, 2013, Sykes met with a human resource representative and manager to file his complaints, and he was told that he was being suspended for six days because of a pending investigation into complaints from clients. Six days later, Sykes alleges that he was "wrongfully terminated."
Jasmine Duel of Berokim & Duel, PC, who is representing Sykes, says a jury trial has been requested.
In February 2014, Joseph A. Smith filed a suit in San Francisco County Superior Court against Equinox alleging that he was misclassified as an exempt employee when he worked from 2008 to December 2013 as a shop manager for several retail clothing shops within Equinox clubs.
The suit contends that the misclassification caused Smith to miss out on overtime compensation, meal and rest breaks or premium compensation in lieu of the breaks. In the suit, Smith asks for "unpaid overtime, wages for missed meal and rest breaks, interest on money damages, related penalties, liquidated damages, injunctive and other equitable relief, punitive damages and reasonable attorneys' fees and costs…"
Smith also alleges that he notified management about the misclassification of him and other shop managers in spring and summer 2013, and he alleges that his complaints led to management raising his store's sales goals, "which had the intended effect of eliminating or reducing his bonus compensation." Smith also alleges he was later fired for repeatedly complaining to managers and human resources staff about the misclassification. This suit is still pending.
In April 2014, Equinox paid $2.9 million to settle a class action lawsuit brought by sales staff over claims that they did not receive meal breaks or payment for overtime hours.
In December, a judge in the U.S. District Court Southern District of Florida denied a claim brought by a former group fitness employee, Karlyle Alvino, who alleged that she was not paid for overtime she worked from 2012 to 2014, according to court documents.
Equinox also faces a class action suit filed in October 2014 in the United States District Court Central District of California by Damon Byrd alleging that Equinox violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act by calling his cell phone using an automated calling system. Byrd alleges that he had no prior business relationship with Equinox.
Equinox declined to comment on the lawsuits.
(Editor's Note: To brush up on the Fair Labor and Standards Act, part of which deals with who exempt and non-exempt employees are, read this story.)