Three employees at an LA Fitness in Secaucus, N.J., were terminated after they were accused of harassing two Black men who were simply trying to work out.
Tshyrad Oates was attending the gym with his friend, whose name is not stated, using a four-day guest pass, and his friend was a member of the gym. The men checked in with an employee when they arrived and started their workout.
After about a half hour I was approached by this same employee telling me that I had to leave or pay and I explained to her that I just signed in with her with the guest pass,” Oates posted, along with several videos of the incident, on Facebook.
She stated that it was my friend who did not pay (unaware that her manager had already signed him in with his membership pass). My friend stated to her that he is an active and current member and that his gym tag was in his locker. He felt racially profiled and embarrassed by the harassment of this LA Fitness employee in front of other members at the gym.”
Enter the authorities: predictably, an employee called the police.
“We explained to them about our guest pass and rescanned my friend’s member tag and it resulted in current active statues. (The LA Fitness employee did look at the computer screen that showed current member status and said nothing),” Oates said.
In one video an employee takes Oates’ friend’s membership card and scans it on the computer without a problem.
“I’m the only person in the gym they have to scan again,” Oates’ friend says on the video, adding that he’s been a member for at least eight years.
“And you called the police for this,” he says after the membership tag is scanned without a problem.
Staff members gave the men a hard time because they said Oates’ friend was not allowed to film despite dozens of people filming and using their cell phones at the gym all the time.
Police seemed just as confused as Oates and his friend.
“You guys don’t like cellphones, I get it,” says one officer. “But it’s not criminal activity.”
The manager apparently told Oates’ friend his contract was being terminated. In one video he says, “My contract is being terminated, because, um, because what”
“I don’t have the answer to that,” one of the cops responds, adding, with a laugh, “Nobody knows.”
An employee confirmed to NJ.com that three people no longer work at the club as a result. Oates posted the videos to Facebook on Monday, and NJ.com reported the news Wednesday, although it’s not clear when they were actually fired.
The manager who appeared in the video was “removed from the company,” Josos, the employee, said, and two other women who were working that night were also fired.
“I know the incident was really bad,” Josos told the website.
In a separate statement to the website LA Fitness said it is “exploring potential training content and opportunities to better train our staff.”
Information about LA Fitness’ board of directors, executive team or employee demographics is not available on the company’s website. There is no mention of diversity on the page.
The incident comes on the heels of Starbucks’ racial profiling incident, when two Black men were arrested after a store manager called the police. The men were waiting for a friend and asked to use the bathroom before purchasing drinks, then were asked to leave.
Starbucks has since stated that the store manager no longer works there, but it is unclear when this became effective, whether she was told to leave or left on her own accord and if she is still working for the company at another location.