Many fitness facility owners and operators understand the necessity of regularly inspecting and maintaining their fitness equipment to manage the risk of gym injuries to members. However, in addition to managing the risk of an injury lawsuit, health club owners and managers would be wise to be knowledgeable about "sensitive" or "controversial" topics that might lead to lawsuits. Issues related to sexual orientation, gender identification, breastfeeding, sexual harassment, handicap access and religious beliefs should be treated in like manner as issues pertaining to potential gym injuries.
Here are some suggestions that may potentially reduce exposure to lawsuits related to these issues. (Note: This is by no means a complete or exhaustive list, nor does it guarantee that a health club will not get sued. The subject of risk management for fitness facilities is vast and complex and cannot be condensed in this format.)
- Know the law. Develop a comprehensive written policy based on what federal, state and local law requires.
- Realize the necessity of being aware of sensitive and controversial issues. If these issues are not confronted, the negative ramifications are not just legal; mishandling such a situation could negatively affect your health club's reputation.
- Educate yourself and your staff on the legal issues involved, as well as the standards and practices employed in the industry. Understand the importance of training staff – one insensitive or unprofessional employee could potentially undermine your risk management program.
- Create an atmosphere in your club that is inclusive, respectful, courteous and professional to all members and potential members of your health club. You may be able to reduce your exposure to lawsuits if you and your staff maintain such an atmosphere.
- Consult with an informed attorney in your area. Although it's important to have a personal injury attorney who can help you when someone gets hurt in your gym, it's also important that your attorney understands the federal, state and local laws that pertain to sensitive and controversial issues.
Thomas Margolis is an attorney with Margolis Law LLC, licensed in the state of Wisconsin. Nothing in this article is to be considered as creating an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Attorney Thomas Margolis or between the reader and Margolis Law LLC. Further, nothing in this article is to be considered as the rendering of legal advice in any manner or for any specific case. Readers are responsible for obtaining legal advice from their own legal counsel. This article is intended for educational and informational purposes only. Margolis is available for legal or consulting matters. Contact him at www.tmargolislaw.com