A gym allegedly threatened an Orthodox woman with arrest and repeatedly harassed her after she insisted on wearing a skirt to work out, according to a lawsuit.
Yosefa Jalal, 25, of Crown Heights, New York is suing the women’s-only health club chain, Lucille Roberts, for religious discrimination in violation of federal, state and city statues.
In court papers to be filed on Friday, Jalal said she had her membership revoked for following religious dictates concerning female modesty, the New York Post reported.
Jalal – who observes ‘Jewish rules of modesty’ and in public always wears ‘skirts and tights to cover her legs as well as shirts that cover her elbows and come to her neck – is seeking unspecified damages and a court order to have her membership reinstated.
‘Just because I’m an observant Jew doesn’t mean that I should be treated like a criminal and shouldn’t be allowed to work out. It’s just not fair,’ she said.
Jalal joined the gym in 2011 where after she wore a skirt to work out at several branches where she participated in kickboxing, Zumba and weight-lifting classes and also used an elliptical machine, the suit said.
She was allegedly harassed over her gym attire in 2013 when she was working out at a Kings Highway location where a manager told her she could not wear a skirt, according to the Post.
She continued attending the gym and wearing the skirt without incident until the following year when another manager at the location told her to remove the skirt, Gothamist reported.
When she refused she was told to leave the gym and began attending a branch on Flatbush Avenue regularly until June 26 of this year when a manager accused her of trespassing because she was wearing improper attire, the suit claims.
The elementary school teacher made a trip to a local police station where an officer told her that wearing a skirt to the gym is not trespassing.
A few days later when she went to the gym on July 1 to take a kickboxing class, a woman from the front desk interrupted the class and spoke with the instructor, who said they had to stop the class until she took off her skirt, the suit alleges.
In a Facebook post on the day of the incident, Jalal recounted when she ultimately had her membership revoked.
‘Today I went to #LucilleRoberts to work out, while wearing a skirt,’ she wrote on July 1.
‘The woman at the desk told me I couldn’t wear it but it doesn’t state that in the policy so I told her I was going to wear it.
‘I went to join a class that was going on and ten minutes into it the lady at the desk came up and told the instructor to stop the class unless I took off my skirt. I refused so she stopped the class.
‘Many of the participants were unhappy but she did not restart the class. So, I left the class to work out on a machine.
‘The woman at the desk asks for my name. I give it to her and she comes back to me saying that my membership has been revoked, I am trespassing and must leave.
Jalal’s laywer, Ilann Maazel called the incident ‘completely indefensible’ and said health clubs in New York City should be for everybody ‘whether you wear a cross, a Star of David or a skirt’.
‘She also said the cops are on the way. Now what? I have a case with the Commissioner of Human Rights open already but it’s taking so long.
‘I just want to go to the gym and I really feel like my rights are being denied.’
Her laywer, Ilann Maazel called the incident ‘completely indefensible’ and said health clubs in New York City should be for everybody ‘whether you wear a cross, a Star of David or a skirt’.
The federal suit is also seeking to prevent the fitness company from ‘discriminating on the basis of religion, and in particular, discriminating against observant-Jewish women’.