“In coastal cities, training is something you can do without a degree and you can make $75 an hour — there are not a lot of opportunities to do that, so it’s a big draw for people of color.” But the management structure, she observed, is often white and male.
In response to the verdict, Equinox did not engage in the current fashion for self-reproach and vows to do better. Instead, it issued a statement saying that it “vehemently disagreed” with the finding and did not “tolerate discrimination in any form.” In the motion it filed asking the court to reconsider the case, either by way of a new trial or a reduction in the award, lawyers maintained that the jurors, “guided by sympathy and emotion,” had “erroneously” bought into the plaintiff’s claim that she had been the victim of racial animus and “issued extreme, unconscionable damages” as a result.
The case revolved in large part around allegations that a manager who reported to Ms. Europe, a middle-aged white man whom she described as insulated by his relationships with people above her, refused to accept her as his supervisor. She claimed that he repeatedly delivered his vulgar takes on Black female bodies, referred to nonwhite employees as “lazy” and expressed the hope that he could get them fired; he called one Black co-worker “autistic.”
In the early spring of 2019, the suit claimed, he “demanded” that his boss wait outside the gym with him for a young Black woman to leave a cafe where she worked so he could make a pass at her, on the theory that he would be better positioned with a Black person standing next to him. Ms. Europe, according to the complaint, “refused to be a racial pawn.”
The accumulation of these incidents, she testified, made her time at Equinox so stressful that the bulimia she struggled with for much of her life worsened. While working there, Ms. Europe told me, her condition was bad enough that she began vomiting several times a day and started to throw up blood; she eventually had to enter a treatment program for eating disorders. Her lawyers, all of them women at Crumiller, which describes itself as “a feminist litigation firm,” argued that their client’s complaints to male bosses went unheard.
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