California federal judge William H. Orrick certified three class actions for the high-end gym’s employees: 3,000 who claim they didn't receive accurate wage statements; 5,600 fitness instructors and another 400 individuals with meal break claims. According to Law360, Judge Orrick ordered, "The plaintiffs challenge Equinox's written policies and allege that uniform practices require employees to perform off-the-clock work, specifically programming, communicating with clients outside of classes and contacting leads. Equinox denies that its policies or practices do so…Answering these questions about Equinox's policies and practices — questions that predominate individualized issues — will drive the resolution of this issue."
Equinox describes it 106 clubs as temples of well-being. But the company isn’t happy with the certifications, arguing that its meal and rest break policies comply with the California labor code, and employee issues don’t justify class actions because employees “may voluntarily schedule their days in a manner limiting such breaks” so individual issues should trump common questions. But the judge saw it differently and asked three fundamental questions: Did Equinox have a policy or consistent practice of requiring employees to work off the clock, of failing to provide (or properly pay for) meal and rest breaks, or of issuing unlawful wage statements?" Regarding the company’s policies, he went on. "Whether the compensation plan was unlawful and whether employees were lawfully paid for session-related work are questions that can be resolved on a class-wide basis…Individualized issues do not predominate these common questions, as the answers do not depend on the actions or inactions of individual employees, but rather Equinox's compensation plan and job requirements."
The different classes are:
- A wage statement class of people who worked for Equinox in California from April 3, 2018 to the present;
- People who worked for Equinox in California as a personal trainer, group fitness instructor, or Pilates instructor from April 3, 2015 to the present;
- People who worked for Equinox in California who received payments for missed meal breaks, and also received non-hourly pay, from April 3, 2015 to the present.
According to court documents, Equinox often required employees to work more than 40 hours per week without overtime pay and didn’t pay for off-the-clock work such as talking with prospective clients, setting up exercise programs, and meeting with their supervisors – known as “session-related activities.” Instead, the gym paid its group fitness instructors and personal trainers an hourly wage for time clocked in while performing certain tasks, as well as a fixed piece rate when they completed an individual training session or group class.
The complaint further alleges that Equinox discouraged employees from recording their time spent performing off-the-clock work, so the company’s time-keeping records were inaccurate. And rather than pay employees for every hour worked, the luxury gym averaged their wages. This practice meant that their piece rate, when divided by their recorded hours work and time spent performing “session-related activities,” was equal to or greater than the minimum wage—a practice that violates the California labor law: it is illegal for employers to average employee compensation over hours worked to avoid paying for all hours.
Also, the lawsuit claims that Equinox failed to provide its employees with full 30-minute lunch breaks and the 10-minute rest period required for every four hours of work – as per the California Labor Code. To top it off, Equinox didn’t keep its promise to pay bonuses for accomplishing certain tasks.
Frank J. Fodera Jr. and Michael M. Bonella first filed the complaint in 2019, arguing that they were required to prepare exercise programs and keep in contact with Equinox members at any time during the day without being compensated.
They also said that Equinox had a policy requiring instructors to teach at least four, one-hour training sessions in a row without being able to take a rest break, in violation of California law. The New York Times in 2019 reported that Equinox trainers can spend 70 or 80 hours a week at the gym — many of them unpaid — hustling to recruit clients, waiting between workouts, planning routines and conducting training sessions. Current and former Equinox trainers in Dallas, Boston, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles said they or their colleagues routinely slept in cars, curled up on yoga mats or dozed off with heads resting on tables during long sessions at the gym.
“It’s very ‘Hunger Games’-style,” Alexander Miotti, a former trainer at a Los Angeles Equinox told the NYT. He left after a dispute with his managers. “They’re like, ‘We want you to have a really nice work-life balance.’ But at the same time, ‘How do you expect to be successful if you’re not here for 12 hours a day?’”
Other Equinox Labor Lawsuits
Equinox seems to repeatedly stiff its employees.
2012: Personal trainer Stephanie Rosales worked at one of the company’s Dallas gyms. She sued Equinox for unpaid wages, claiming she had spent 80 to 90 hours a week at the gym during her first months on the job.
2013: Equinox settled two California overtime suits in California for $5.65 million.
February 2014: Joseph A. Smith filed a misclassification lawsuit in San Francisco County Superior Court claimin Equinox misclassified him as an exempt employee when he worked from 2008 to December 2013 as a shop manager for several retail clothing shops within Equinox clubs. Smith argues that misclassification caused him to miss out on overtime compensation, meal and rest breaks or premium compensation in lieu of the breaks.
April 2014: Equinox settled a class action lawsuit for $2.9 million, brought by sales staff over claims that they did not receive meal breaks or payment for overtime hours.
July 2014: A former Equinox operations administrator filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court claiming the gym failed to pay wages, provide an accurate itemized wage statement, and provide meal and rest periods. Gavin Sykes also alleges wrongful termination and racial and sexual orientation discrimination. The lawsuit claims that his supervisor instructed him to "cleanse company records and time cards of wages paid and actual time worked by employees" and "alter time cards to reflect that Equinox employees were taking meal and rest breaks in accordance with California law, even if they were not, to relieve Equinox from further liability."
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Equinox Holdings Inc., New York will pay $4 million to settle claims that it failed to fully pay or provide breaks to more than 1,000 massage therapists, aestheticians and nail technicians in California. Law360 reported that Plaintiffs Nicole Leisinger-Reed, Tanya L. Fox and Ve Magni sued in March 2012, alleging Equinox failed to pay all wages owed to its non-exempt service providers at 18 California locations failed to provide meal and rest breaks. All three worked at Equinox's club in West Hollywood.