NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced an agreement with Fitness International, LLC, the owner and operator of LA Fitness gyms nationwide, that requires the company to revise and strengthen its policies in order to expand access for patrons with disabilities. The Attorney General’s Office began investigating LA Fitness in May 2015, after receiving complaints that the gym would not modify its membership policy to waive fees for aides who were required to accompany individuals with disabilities. Under the agreement, LA Fitness will now afford free access to aides of individuals accompanying disabled patients at its 29 fitness centers throughout New York.
“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 Attorney General 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, Community Educator at the Epilepsy Foundation of Long Island, a complainant in this case, said, “My son and I reached out to the Attorney General’s Office because we were frustrated by the unequal treatment he was receiving at LA Fitness. Charging a person with a disability extra fees to participate in an activity is the definition of discrimination. 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, as well as the New York State Human Rights Law, require places of public accommodation to modify policies and procedures to accommodate individuals with disabilities. The Attorney General’s Office found that the refusal of employees at LA Fitness to modify its policies regarding membership fees for individuals with disabilities who required the presence of aides while working out was not in compliance with these statutes. Complainant Claudia Ciatto reported that employees at the Lindenhurst branch of LA Fitness refused entry to her son, who has a disability, unless he paid a guest fee for the licensed practical nurse who was required to accompany him while he worked out. As a result of the fitness center’s continued refusal to waive this fee, her son was forced to cancel his gym membership.
To address this issue, LA Fitness has agreed to (a) adjust its policies to ensure that membership fees are waived for individuals who require the accompaniment of aides, (b) train its employees to properly implement these policies and handle requests for reasonable accommodations in accordance with state and federal laws, (c) submit to three years of monitoring by the Attorney General’s Office, and (d) provide the aforementioned complainant with an 18-month, no-cost membership as well as $5000 in relief. These cases are being handled by Assistant Attorney General Ajay Saini, under the supervision of Civil Rights Bureau Chief Lourdes Rosado and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Alvin Bragg.
The Civil Rights Bureau of the Attorney General’s Office is committed to combating discrimination faced by and promoting accessibility for individuals with disabilities across New York State. To file a complaint, contact the Attorney General’s Office at (212) 416-8250, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.ag.ny.gov.