Aireial Mack, a former sales employee at LA Fitness in Slidell, New Orleans, filed a discrimination lawsuit against the gym and its parent company, Fitness International, according to the Advocate.
Mack claimed that on Jan. 2 her White supervisor, Blake Mata, sent her a text about her natural hair. “We took you off the schedule because your (hair) doesn’t meet LA FITNESS STANDARDS in a fro.”
He continued, “We want a classy appearance. We don’t want to leak off a n***er style don’t take it wrong, just change it.”
Mack allegedly brought the message to the attention of Mark Mayeux, the gym’s general manager. Unfortunately, she was fired several days later.
The Afro comment wasn’t the first time the 26-year-old allegedly experienced racist comments at the gym.
The Louisiana Commission on Human Rights, which investigates harassment and discrimination complaints, sent a letter to Mack in July.
She was instructed that the LA Fitness violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which protects employees from workplace discrimination, by being removed from the schedule over her hair. The company, however, said Mack was fired for excessive sick days and poor work ethic.
In the court documents, Mata is also accused of making a remark about Mack’s bottom and asking a customer if Mack was attractive for a Black girl.
LA Fitness has not commented on the allegation but Angelle Torres, who is White and a former manager, said Mata used racial slurs about African-Americans at the facility.
“It was sickening to have to sit there and bear witness to it,” Torres said. “But I had to feed my family. I didn’t have a choice. I was scared to speak up and say anything about it. Because I didn’t want to lose my job.”
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Christina Santi is a news and culture writer for EBONY.com. Born and raised in the Bronx, New York, she considers herself a well-read, not so traditional feminist with a heavy interest in music, fashion and pop culture. Christina currently lives in New York City, where she refers to her Cuban & Jamaican descent often while writing about her experiences as a first-generation Afro-Latinx in America. She also devotes time writing personalized reading material for her tutees and turning ideas into words for streetwear brand, PUER By Noel Bronson.