Mark Harrington, owner of Healthworks Fitness Centers Inc., Boston, says the allegations in a lawsuit filed against him and the company by a former personal trainer are “entirely without merit.”
The lawsuit was filed earlier this month in Suffolk County (MA) Superior Court in Boston on behalf of DeAnna Putnam and other similarly situated plaintiffs. The complaint includes eight counts, including unpaid wages, overtime violations, minimum wage, retaliation and breach of contract.
The lawsuit claims that Healthworks does not have enough personal training business to ensure that personal trainers are able to work enough hours to meet the company’s full-time requirement and that personal trainers often work many unpaid hours to try to meet that requirement.
“Healthworks ensures that it has free labor from its personal trainers and has them perform work for which it would otherwise have to pay another employee for, such as helping customers on the exercise floor and teaching group exercise classes,” according to the complaint.
The lawsuit also claims that Healthworks’ personal trainers are not paid for complimentary sessions and special workshops for members on certain days, such as the company’s monthly Member Appreciation Day.
Hillary Schwab, the attorney representing Putnam, says that Putnam is the only named plaintiff in the case. Schwab adds that she has been contacted by six former and current Healthworks personal trainers who confirm Putnam’s allegations in the complaint.
“What the client has alleged is backed up from the documentation from the pay stubs and other documentation of hours worked that she received from Healthworks,” Schwab says.
The lawsuit claims Putnam was fired by Healthworks earlier this year after she filed a formal complaint with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office. Harrington disputes the allegation.
Personal trainers at Healthworks must work 24 sessions per week, or at least 35 hours, to achieve full-time status, Harrington says. The company credits 1 1/2 hours for each training session. If a trainer does 14 sessions in a week, for example, that equals 21 credit hours, so a trainer would be required to work the floor of the club for an additional 14 hours that week. At no time, Harrington says, are trainers paid less than $10 an hour.
Healthworks personal trainers are 100 percent commissioned, Harrington adds. Full-time benefits include a greater split for each personal training session, health and dental insurance, longer paid vacations, sick days, personal days, holiday pay and eligibility for individual and team bonuses, plus an annual trip incentive. The full-time trainers at the club where Putnam was employed had an average annual salary of at least $60,000 and recently earned a trip to a resort in Fort Lauderdale, FL, Harrington says.
“Our compensation package is the best in the city of Boston that we know of, and we’ve checked them all,” Harrington says.
The lawsuit seeks damages related to wages as well as attorneys’ fees and costs.