black women

Muslim woman told she can’t cover her hair at the gym; told to wear a baseball cap instead

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by Afiya J. Watkins

Everyone seems to be trying to get into shape lately, and that is a great thing. With new gym chains and locations popping up everywhere it is now easier than ever before to find a facility in which to work out.

Planet Fitness is one of the national gym chains that seem to be growing in popularity due to their exciting but unintimidating atmosphere. In fact, the chain has trademarked the phrase “Judgment Free Zone”, so it took many by surprise when gym-goer Tarainia McDaniel of Albuquerque claimed that she was barred from entering a gym on Irving Boulevard on the city’s West Side.

The reason: The head covering she was wearing as part of her Muslim faith, which requires women to cover their hair, didn’t meet the gym’s dress code.

McDaniel, a business owner and student working on dual degrees, alleges in a lawsuit filed by her attorney, Rachel Higgins, that she explained the requirements of her religion but was told only that she could wear a baseball cap.

Planet Fitness attorney Erika Anderson said, “My client’s position is that they didn’t know the head covering was for religious purposes. It violated their dress code policy.” She said she could not comment further on pending litigation.

As reported by news outlets in Albuquerque, the case is scheduled for an August bench trial before District Judge Beatrice Brickhouse.

According to McDaniel’s lawsuit, when she joined Planet Fitness on a two-year contract she typically went to the Coors location. When the gym on Irving opened, she began going there because it was closer to her home.

On Oct. 3, 2011, she entered the gym as she had many times before and was turned away, the lawsuit says. She requested an accommodation based on her religious requirements and suggested that she could perhaps go home and come back with the hijab, the formal head covering.

According to her deposition, the Quran “is pretty specific on covering your hair” and dressing modestly in clothes that fit loosely.

McDaniel informed employees she would have to cancel her membership and was advised that she would have to do so at the Coors location, but would be expected to pay a cancellation fee, the lawsuit claims.

At the Coors gym, an employee said the dress code was sometimes waived but that it couldn’t be in her case because the head covering was red, according to the complaint.

McDaniel’s civil lawsuit, filed under the New Mexico Human Rights Act and the Unfair Practices Act, alleges Planet Fitness illegally based the decision to deny her access upon her religion, or alternatively upon her race – she is African American – and that the gym had no legitimate or non-pretextual reason to deny her entry.

Planet Fitness, in its formal answer to the claims, denies violations of either the Human Rights Act or Unfair Practices Act. It says McDaniel failed to participate in good faith and that the company has legitimate business reasons for its practice as well as measures to prevent discrimination.

In the deposition, Anderson asked if McDaniel recalled a sign posted at Planet Fitness that said “no jeans, work boots, bandanas, skull caps or revealing apparel.”

McDaniel reportedly acknowledged seeing the sign, but added, “I already (had) made it known before I signed the contract that I covered my hair. I had on (what) I call a head covering. I guess for the sake of the record, they’re referring to it as a head covering.”

When Anderson asked if she told them she was Muslim, McDaniel replied, “I sure did.”

 

 

404 Comments

  1. jamal

    March 24, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    so the next step is to deny Muslim and jewish males since they both wear skull caps.

    • Mr Douglas

      March 25, 2014 at 3:05 am

      Jamal, they don’t wear scull caps. Research sir!

  2. ericaf

    March 24, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    Her hair covering was red? Am I missing something? Is there a policy against red in the gym? So if she had put on a baseball cap and that was red would she have been denied entry also? All the rules listed did not apply to her because she was obviously wearing a religious head scarf so they are discriminating against her. Some of the people probably complained because if she went more than once, there should be no reason to be denied entry.

  3. Lady

    March 24, 2014 at 9:48 pm

    If she paid for her membership, let her work out. I’m not Muslim but I always wear a silk scarf to cover my hair when I’m working out. What is wrong with people?!

  4. Corbin

    March 24, 2014 at 9:53 pm

    Just put on a baseball cap and workout or workout at home. Geeeez.

    • Specom

      March 25, 2014 at 1:15 am

      Just mind your damn business…

    • Mr Douglas

      March 25, 2014 at 3:11 am

      What rock do u live under? Do u not understand freedom of religion. How would u like it if u were asked to leave a school, show or pool for post a foolish comment about something ur obviously ignorant of!?!

  5. jayz

    March 25, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    I’m a rastafarian…can i smoke weed at the gym?fukn get over it or carry ya ass…

    • Abdul Wahid

      March 29, 2014 at 11:45 am

      Jayz you idiot. What if they told you you had to cut your hair?

  6. Abdul Wahid

    March 29, 2014 at 11:41 am

    Im missing something here. What’s up with the red color? Also where does her kimar fall under bandana or shull cap? Corbin, go tell your job how you are a racist. You are a prejudice person and you know it. You should be ashamed of yourself. She is fulfilling her religious duties. How can knock that? How does this affect you?

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