Enforcing Health Club Rules: 3 Hypothetical Situations and Solutions

It's inevitable that conflicts will arise among members at your club. Know your rights, and how and when to take action to enforce your gym's rules.

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.

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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 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: Stolen iPhone

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.

“As a club operator, you’re obliged to protect both your staff and other members.”

Situation 2: Unwanted Attention

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.

Situation 3: Refusing to Sign a Contract

Faith B. is very interested in becoming a member of your club. However, she explains that she doesn’t want to sign a membership contract, and wonders if it’s possible to join without doing so.

Question: Is there any obligation to let a person become a member if they refuse to sign a membership contract?

Answer: No. A membership contract constitutes an agreement between two parties and outlines the responsibilities of each within the document. Without having this written permission, an individual generally doesn’t have the right to enjoy all of the benefits associated with membership.

Author avatar

Shannon Vogler @vogler_shannon

Shannon Vogler is the Communications and Public Relations Coordinator for IHRSA. Shannon writes articles, press releases, and the IHRSA Advocate newsletter to make IHRSA members aware of policy issues that impact health clubs. She also speaks with media influencers about the benefits of working out and joining a gym. When she's not writing, Shannon enjoys running and cheering for the New England Patriots.