Fitness International, LLC, the owner of LA Fitness gyms nationwide, is being required to revise and strengthen its policies to allow better access to its facilities for gym-goers with disabilities.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced the agreement with Fitness International after his office investigated LA Fitness in May 2015.
According to Schneiderman, the investigation was prompted by complaints that the gym would not modify its membership policy to waive fees for aides required to accompany individuals with disabilities.
The agreement now affords free access to aides accompanying disabled patients to any of the 29 fitness centers throughout New York, according to Schneiderman's office.
"My office is committed to vigorously enforcing the Americans with Disabilities Act, which promises all New Yorkers the opportunity to live fully and independently regardless of disability status," said Schneiderman. "Businesses have a responsibility to make reasonable accommodations that increase accessibility for New Yorkers, and I am pleased that LA Fitness has agreed to take important steps to ensure equal access for all at their facilities."
Claudia Ciatto, a complaintant in the case, says she and her son reached out to the Attorney General because they were frustrated with what they felt was unequal treatment at their LA Fitness facility.
"Charging a person with a disability extra fees to participate in an activity is the definition of discrimination," said Ciatto. "People with disabilities have the right to be treated with the same respect and consideration that any other person is given. No one has the right to lessen a person's worth. This facility clearly discriminated against my son and we couldn't be happier that we have become part of changing its policy."
Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the New York State Human Rights Law require public places to modify policies to accommodate people with disabilities.The Attorney General's Office found that LA Fitness's refusal to modify procedures regarding membership fees for those with disabilities was not in compliance with these laws.
Ciatto says the employees at the Lindenhurst branch of LA Fitness refused to let her son enter unless he paid a guest pass fee for the licensed practical nurse who was required to accompany him while he worked out. Ciatto's son was eventually forced to cancel his gym membership because of this.
As a result of this investigation and issue, LA Fitness has agreed to do three things:
- Adjust its policy to make sure membership fees are waived for those who need aides to accompany them at the gym.
- Train its employees to properly enforce these policies and handle requests in line with these laws.
- Submit to three years of monitoring by the Attorney General's Office
- Provide Ciatto's son with an 18-month, no-cost membership and $5000 in relief.