A worker named Röbynn Europe claimed she lost her job because Equinox retaliated against her for calling out racism and sexism at the club, and she was later awarded $11 million.
After she was hired by the high-end Equinox gym in 2018, Röbynn Europe, a Black personal trainer, was quickly promoted to oversee a group of 15 employees. But soon, she alleges, a White employee created a “toxic atmosphere” by repeatedly making vulgar comments about Black women’s bodies as well as objecting to her being his boss.
Europe’s employment didn’t last long. Less than a year after starting at Equinox, she was fired — and the reason for the termination was the crux of a lawsuit she filed in 2020.
She alleged she faced discrimination due to her race and gender, and that she lost her job because Equinox retaliated against her for calling out racism and sexism at the club. The gym claimed she was fired for arriving late 47 times during her 11 months at the company. While a judge dismissed her claim of retaliation last year, the case continued, focused on the issues of race and gender bias.
Earlier this month, a jury of five women and three men sided with Europe, awarding her $11.25 million in damages, a verdict that includes $10 million in punitive damages against the gym, according to court records.
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Millions of employees face toxic workplaces, which can reduce employee performance and impact a worker’s personal life, according to the Harvard Business Review. According to Europe’s lawsuit, her experiences at Equinox allegedly demoralized her, caused her “substantial emotional distress” and exacerbated her bulimia.
“The jury sent a loud message to Equinox that there are serious consequences for corporations that permit racist and sexist behavior in the workplace,” said Susan Crumiller, an attorney for Europe, in a statement.
She added, “We are also pleased that the jury found Equinox’s racism had a severe and lasting impact on Röbynn’s mental health and that she deserved to be compensated for it.”
After the jury’s award, the judge ordered both sides to meet with a magistrate judge to discuss a settlement.
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