A woman allegedly fired for showing up late 47 times during her brief 10-month stint managing personal trainers at an Upper East Side gym in New York is poised to become a multimillionaire.
Robynn Europe, a black 39-year-old, was awarded $10 million in punitive damages and $1.25 million for alleged distress by a New York City jury comprising five women and three men in a racial discrimination case against Equinox, reported the New York Times.
The former Oberlin College art student worked for Equinox from 2018 until 2019. Initially hired as a fitness manager, she was quickly promoted to personal training manager.
Ten months into her tenure at the club, Equinox canned the manager, citing her consistent tardiness.
Court documents indicate that the company maintains a policy on attendance and punctuality, outlined in the Equinox employee handbook Europe read upon first being hired.
The policy stated, "Routinely reporting to work late and failing to work your scheduled hours are violations of Equinox policy that can result in termination."
In one instance, on April 15, 2019, Europe received a disciplinary "Record of Discussion" after she had allegedly turned up late to work nine times over the previous 15 days. This workplace citation included a cautionary note underscoring that "the potential consequences for continued unsatisfactory performance issues included termination."
Europe did not deny that she flouted the company's policy on tardiness. Instead, she claimed her routine contravention of company policy was ultimately used as a pretext to fire her. She was convinced — or at the very least convinced the jury — that her September 2019 termination was motivated instead by racism and other forms of prejudice.
She filed a lawsuit against Equinox and three Equinox employees in 2022, claiming that she was subjected to employment discrimination on the basis of her sex, race, and disability. The lawsuit further suggested that Equinox failed to investigate Europe's complaints of racially and sexually inappropriate behavior, electing instead to use her unrepentant tardiness as a way to oust her.
Equinox counterclaimed that Europe had not shown circumstances giving rise to an inference of discrimination or that the non-discriminatory reason for canning her was pretextual. The company further stressed that it does not "tolerate discrimination in any form."
Following the jury's decision to award Europe well over $11 million in a timely fashion, Equinox filed a motion asking the court to reconsider the case, reported the Times.
Lawyers for the company stressed that the jurors, "guided by sympathy and emotion," had "erroneously" bought into Europe's victim narrative.
Susan Crumiller, Europe's lawyer, said in a statement, "The jury sent a loud message to Equinox that there are serious consequences for corporations that permit racist and sexist behavior in the workplace. ... Let this be a warning to all businesses in New York that if you try to brush harassment and discrimination under the rug, you will not get away with it."
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