An Orthodox Brooklyn woman is suing the Lucille Roberts fitness chain for denying her entry to a kickboxing class because she was wearing a skirt. Yosefa Jalal, 25, said she was harassed, threatened with arrest and had her membership revoked from the women’s-only gym when she insisted on following Judaism’s standards of modesty.
“I think it’s wrong what they did to me. I should be able to work out in a skirt,” Jalal told New York Post. “Just because I’m an observant Jew doesn’t mean that I should be treated like a criminal and shouldn’t be allowed to work out. It’s just not fair.”
In a lawsuit expected to filed in Manhattan federal court on Friday, Jalal accuses the chain of religious discrimination, seeking unspecified damages and a reinstatement of her membership. Jalal, who is getting married this month, alleges that the gym had complained of her wearing a skirt before, going so far as accusing her of “trespassing” because of her inappropriate attire.
But everything took a turn for the worse when, on July 1, the kickboxing instructor at the Flatbush location stopped the music and refused to go on until Jalal took off her skirt, prompting the other women in the class to yell at her. The suit goes on to state that Jalal left the class, opting for an elliptical, and was notified by personnel that her membership had been revoked.
Founded in Manhattan in 1969 by a Soviet Jewish emigre named Lucille Roberts, the company’s mission is, according to its website, to “provide strong, sexy and confident women with a place they can call their own.” Roberts’ 2003 obituary in the New York Times (she died at age 59 of lung cancer, although she was not a smoker), says she made the gyms all-female “because she wanted to protect women from being ogled in coed gyms.”
Although the gym chain discourages flannel, denim, and “street clothes,” it does not formally prohibit skirts, according to Gothamist.
In a Facebook post describing the event, Jalal wrote: “I have a case with the Commissioner of Human Rights open already but it’s taking so long. I just want to go to the gym and I really feel like my rights are being denied. Suggestions?”
“We don’t have different health clubs for Christians, for Muslims, for Hindus and for Jews,” said Ilann Maazel, Jalal’s attorney. “Health clubs in New York City should be for everybody, whether you wear a cross, a Star of David or a skirt.”
A representative for Lucille Roberts declined to comment to the New York Post.