For the most part, health club members are considerate individuals who demonstrate proper etiquette while working out. There are, however, an unfortunate few who make using the club uncomfortable, or even unsafe, for themselves or others.
In some instances, their bad behavior warrants terminating their membership.
While taking such a step might seem drastic, the safety of other members and club morale may necessitate it.
What’s the legal risk? The greatest risk is a discrimination suit. A person may claim that the action was based on race, disability, or some other factor that can’t legally be taken into account. When weighing expulsion, first ask yourself if the person’s membership deserves, in fact, to be terminated; if you’ve documented the incidents that led to the decision; and, finally, if the individual is a member of a protected class, which might increase any legal liability.
Protected classes include minorities, women, people over 40, and people with disabilities. As author Lewin G. Joel II points out in “Every Employee’s Guide to the Law,” 70% of Americans are members of at least one protected group. The written documentation of conduct and disciplinary steps is especially important when the problem member is in a protected class.
Should I refund their initiation fee? Any obligation to refund this fee would be determined by the membership agreement. If it clearly defines the grounds for termination, and states that the fee will not be returned if the club terminates a membership because of a violation of club rules, the club is in a much better position to defend itself against a claim that it violated the contractual agreement, or consumer protection laws, by not refunding the fee.