The Lucille Roberts chain of gyms did not discriminate against an observant Jewish member by refusing to let her work out in a skirt, says a federal court judge in dismissing the woman’s civil rights lawsuit.
You may remember this case from 2015, when a New York City woman accused Lucille Roberts of violating federal and state civil rights laws by refusing to allow her to follow her religion’s guidance on modesty by wearing a skirt over her tights while at the gym.
In her original complaint, the gym member said she’d been working out in skirts at Lucille Roberts since 2011 and only twice — once in 2013 and again a year later — had a gym manager even raised the issue of the skirt being a problem.
Then, in 2015 a gym manager told her the skirt was against the Lucille Roberts dress code, and that she’d be labeled a trespasser if she insisted on continuing to wear it.
However, this week a federal court judge sided with Lucille Roberts, saying that the gym member had failed to show how the company’s no-skirt policy rises to the level of religious discrimination.
“Although plaintiff contends that she was treated differently than other Lucille Roberts members on the basis of her religion, the factual allegations only suggest that she was treated differently because she insisted on wearing an article of clothing that, according to defendant, was inappropriate gym attire,” explains the judge in the order [PDF] dismissing the case.
The judge acknowledges that the Lucille Roberts dress code did not explicitly bar skirts, but concludes that arguing over the fine points of that agreement is a “contractual issue” that “does not give rise to a federal civil rights lawsuit.”
The ruling also notes that the plaintiff gym member had not shown that the skirt ban was unevenly applied to Jewish members. If she’d been able to show that non-Jewish customers were allowed to work out in skirts, she would have had a stronger case, notes the judge. The complaint had alleged that other Jewish members had been “harassed” over their modest workout garb, but the judge points out that “plaintiff has not provided any information to support this conclusory allegation.”
Does it matter that a ban on skirts might disproportionately affect Jewish gym members? Only if the intent of the ban is to discriminate, says the judge. One could bring a federal civil rights case on an ostensibly neutral rule if that rule was adopted as a pretext for discrimination, explains the ruling, but the gym member’s complaint “does not allege facts suggesting that defendant prohibited skirts as pretext for barring Jewish women.”