How Will Your Gym Manage Gender Identification Issues?

By Aaron Eisberg

Transgender_Bathroom_Sign.jpgThe fitness industry is facing an increasingly complex set of issues. In times past, managing risk for your fitness club largely entailed making sure that safety measures were in place to prevent injury to your employees and club members. While that is still a valid aspect of risk management, there are other risk factors which must be taken into account today.'s "Hot Button Issues Could Create Legal Liabilities for Unprepared Health Club Owners"notes:

"The American landscape is changing. More Americans say they support same-sex marriage and other constitutional rights for gay, lesbian and transgender people than ever before. These changes mean that club owners may soon find themselves, if they have not already, facing some unfamiliar situations in which they must contend with personal opinions that may conflict with state and federal laws or with the views of their members, which ultimately could affect their bottom line."

How Controversial Social Issues Can Impact Your Fitness Business

Regardless of where you stand personally on the issue of gender identification, it is important to consider how your fitness business will handle any sensitive issues that arise. The article "Prayer and Transgender Issues Hit the Fitness Industry" notes:

"Most club operators likely have never thought about how transgender people, who some estimates put at 700,000 or 0.3 percent of the population, might be uncomfortable in locker rooms or how they might affect the dynamics within the private space of a locker room ... It is clear that we need to start thinking about it so that we can find a solution that is fair and comfortable for everyone involved."

The importance of having a well-considered policy regarding gender identification issues (as well as other sensitive social issues) is highlighted by the national spotlight on North Carolina's controversial HB2 law, which mandates, in part, that the bathroom a person uses is determined by his or her biological gender at birth.

In New York Times article "U.S. Warns North Carolina That Transgender Bill Violates Civil Rights Law", Vanita Gupta, the top civil rights lawyer for the Justice Department, states: "We have concluded that in violation of Title VII, the state is engaged in a pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of Title VII right by employees of public agencies."

This controversy between the state of North Carolina and the Obama administration illustrates the potential minefield in which fitness business owners must make their own club policies to address sensitive issues such as gender identification. These policies should be included as part of your risk assessment and fitness center business plan in order to reduce your potential exposure to damaging litigation.

Tips for Managing Risks in Your Fitness Business's "Five Tips for Mitigating Risk of Lawsuits Related to Controversial Issues" gives the following advice to help fitness club owners lower their risk of exposure to litigation:

  • Know the law. This includes becoming familiar with federal, as well as state and local, laws on any controversial issue. Once you fully understand applicable laws, you can develop a comprehensive written policy for your fitness center based on current law.
  • Be aware of controversial or sensitive issues. In this case, ignorance is not bliss. Giving careful thought to both the law and your own club's reputation will help you navigate the choppy waters of controversy without sinking your ship.
  • Educate your staff. A written policy is useless unless it is understood and upheld by your staff. Education is essential, as personal opinions among your staff can vary widely from what your policy states. While it is not your place to try to persuade your staff personally to one side of an argument or the other, giving your staff clear direction as to your written policy will help you avoid potential problems.
  • Create the right atmosphere in your club. Maintaining a professional, respectful attitude toward all your gym members as well as your staff will go a long way toward reducing your risk of being the defendant in a law suit.
  • Consult with an attorney. It is a good idea to have an attorney to review your written policy to ensure it conforms to local, state, and federal law. Work with an attorney with experience in handling controversial social issues.

Law_book_with_wooden_judges_gavel.jpgMaking Your Fitness Business All It Can Be

The fitness industry is not immune to the controversies that swirl throughout the American landscape. Being prepared is your best answer to the sensitive issues you may encounter when dealing with your staff and gym members. A clearly written policy which takes into account applicable laws should be created and enforced.

Of course, the best way to avoid bitter feelings and divisions among your members is to provide a safe, respectful environment in your well-equipped and inviting gym. To take advantage of what AccuroFit offers in the way of state-of-the-art gym equipment, download the Accurofit catalog today.