MANHATTAN (CN) — Settling a religious-discrimination lawsuit, Lucille Roberts agreed to pay a confidential sum to a Jewish woman whom it barred from wearing a knee-length skirt at their Brooklyn gyms. “The Women’s Gym” also vowed to keep an open mind going forward when it comes to faith-guided activewear.
Yosefa Wood-Isenberg, who filed the lawsuit nearly two years ago, applauded the resolution of her case Tuesday.
“I am so thankful that I and other Jewish women can work out in a facility without compromising our religious beliefs,” she said in a statement. “This is a joyous win for women who dress modestly.”
“I thank G-d, our legal team, and all who supported us along the way,” she added, in keeping with the Jewish tradition of refraining from spelling out the various earthly names given to an unknowable deity.
A Brooklyn resident who was called Yosefa Jalal when she brought her lawsuit in 2015, the plaintiff said she wore the same style skirt without incident throughout her four-year membership, before being chased out of one Kings Highway location and then bombarded at a kickboxing class in Flatbush.
“Some participants screamed at Ms. Jalal,” the complaint had alleged. “Ms. Jalal was embarrassed, upset, and shocked.”
Denying religious bias, Lucille Roberts pointed to a requirement in its playful “Rules and Regulations” that members “dress appropriately.”
“This may be a ladies gym but you should still look your best,” the rules state. “Studies show you workout longer, faster and harder when you have on a nice outfit. Studies also show you’re 75 percent more likely to run into your ex on a day when you wear embarrassing sweatpants and a stained T-shirt.”
U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa had cited this “lighthearted dress code” when he dismissed the lawsuit in May.
Though Wood-Isenberg promised at the time to lodge an appeal with the Second Circuit, the new settlement ends that process and amends gym rules.
“Any religiously observant member shall be permitted to engage in any and all activities available to other members while wearing clothing in exercise of their religious beliefs, including plaintiff or others wearing a fitted skirt that extends just below the knee,” an agreement filed with the court on Aug. 28 states.
Lucille Roberts claims that it had been planning to change those rules before the settlement.
“Defendant has previously adopted this policy in the interest of respecting its members’ exercise of religious freedom,” its 5-page agreement states.
Wood-Isenberg’s lead attorney at Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady applauded what he called “an important victory for religious freedom."
“Observant Jewish women should be able to work out at a gym like anyone else, and now, at Lucille Roberts they can,” attorney Ilann Maazel said in a statement.
Maazel’s co-counsel Doug Lieb said that this is true regardless of creed.
“Whether you wear a long skirt, a hijab, or a T-shirt promoting atheism, places of public accommodation are for you,” he said. “We encourage others to join Lucille Roberts in embracing this core American principle.”
Lucille Roberts was represented by Stephen Alexander of Capehart Scratchard. The New Jersey attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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