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Enforcing Health Club Rules Fairly and Legally

Health clubs have always been welcoming places—ones that provide members with the opportunity to experience an exhilarating and rewarding workout, and, at the same time, enjoy the camaraderie of other individuals with similar interests.

However, issues can arise when some members don’t see eye-to-eye with one another or with the club’s management. Resolving such differences before they become heated disputes can sometimes prove difficult.

Acquiring the basic understanding and skills required to deal with such situations quickly, quietly, and efficiently is essential to keeping members satisfied and your business operating smoothly. IHRSA’s latest briefing paper, How to Enforce Club Rules Fairly and Legally, can serve as a useful guide.

Below, we’ve described some hypothetical dilemmas, providing suggestions from the paper concerning your rights, and when, and how, to take action.

Situation 1: Emily A. approaches the front desk at your club one afternoon. She claims that her iPhone has been stolen from the locker room, and says she knows who took it. When you ask if she has any evidence of this, she admits that she doesn’t, but points out that the suspect is always in the locker room at the same time she is. Therefore, Emily explains, the culprit would know where she puts her belongings. She wants the suspect’s membership terminated.

Question: Can you terminate the membership of someone who’s been accused of stealing from your club’s locker room?

Answer: Most clubs do terminate the membership of someone who’s been caught stealing. However, it’s crucial to note that termination should be considered only when there’s compelling evidence. Each time personal belongings go missing, most clubs can print out a report that identifies the members and guests who were on-site at the time; comparing these records can produce a list of suspects who can then be monitored more closely.

Situation 2: Ben S. signs up for a club membership with the intention of meeting women. He thinks that joining a yoga class is the best way to do so. He positions his mat behind a group
 of young women, and, as the class begins, starts commenting on the tightness of their clothing and how good it looks. The women tell him to stop, but he continues with the comments.

Question: Does the club have a responsibility to confront a male member who makes female members feel uncomfortable?

Answer: Yes, it does. In this instance, the individual is extending sexual attention to members who don’t welcome it, which constitutes harassment. The club can be held responsible if staff knew about the situation and took no action to remedy it.

As a club operator, you’re obliged to protect both your staff and other members. Issue a written warning to the offender, and makes it clear that, if the behavior continues, you may terminate his membership.

Continue reading “Enforcing Club Rules Fairly and Legally” in the April issue of CBI.

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