'We want a classy appearance': Former LA Fitness employee says she was fired because of her natural hair

Did LA Fitness really fire a woman because of her natural hair? (Photo: Getty Images)
Did LA Fitness really fire a woman because of her natural hair? (Photo: Getty Images)

Aireial Mack, a former LA Fitness employee in Louisiana, says her supervisor called her afro inappropriate and used a racial slur before firing her, back in January.

According to the New Orleans Advocate, Mack, who is African-American, received a racially charged text message from her supervisor, Blake Mata, in regards to her natural hair. “We took you off the schedule because your (hair) doesn’t meet LA FITNESS STANDARDS in a fro,” wrote Mata, according to the report. “We want a classy appearance. We don’t want to leak off a n***er style don’t take it wrong, just change it.” The 26-year-old said she was fired three days after bringing the incident to the attention of the gym’s general manager, Mark Mayeux.

Mack also said that both men, who are white, used racial slurs during the nearly five months she worked at the gym. In March, she proceeded to file a discrimination claim with the Louisiana Commission on Human Rights (the state version of the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) against LA Fitness and its parent company, Fitness International. According to the newspaper report, the commission received evidence from Mack, which details other instances of Mata using similar racial slurs, “indicat(ing) that this was a constant practice of his.”

LA Fitness did not immediately respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment.

But Jill Greuling, a spokesperson for LA Fitness, told the newspaper that in the eight months since her termination, Mack “never told us or the EEOC (as far as we know) about the additional texts or the video used in your piece, which seemed to contain horrible derogatory language. Even during our investigation and working with the EEOC through the mediation process, these other issues were never raised.” Greuling also said Mack has refused the fitness chain’s request to see the text messages, which Mata has denied sending, and that, to her knowledge, the 26-year-old was terminated for poor performance.

Mack intends to sue the company, and her attorney, Victor Farruggia, said that he and his client “stand by the evidence that we presented as being authentic. If they want to see any of the evidence, we’re happy to discuss that with their attorney.”

Following the New Orleans Advocate’s coverage, LA Fitness has reopened an investigation into the allegation against Mata and Mayeux. “In response, this morning we removed the two employees … from their positions, and we have reopened the investigation,” Greuling said. “I assure you (that) if these accusations are confirmed, they will be terminated.”

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