I thought I was getting sick. My symptoms were nausea, headaches and restlessness. When the shakes first started, I thought it was probably too little sleep.
The symptoms came and went, off and on over the course of many months.
It took a while before I noticed that I'd start feeling sick as I was heading into work.
As a freelance fitness instructor I teach at about a half dozen fitness centers, and gyms each week. Some are very high scale and some are very prestigious. After many years teaching fitness I’ve learned how to command a room and be good at my job. I can teach as many as fifty people simultaneously and still give each client individual attention. In short I am good at what I do and as a result I am sought after.
A few years ago a new gym opened close to my apartment and the owner asked me to teach for him. They couldn't afford to pay what some of the other gyms could but it was appealing to teach somewhere in the neighborhood. I was also able to come in on the ground floor and start a barre program to my own specifications.
Things started out relatively well. Local clients followed me to the new gym and soon new students began to fill the room. I was creating new classes and feeling good about myself.
Flash forward a year later, and things started to change. A man who I will call “Joseph”, a co-worker began making unwanted remarks and comments to me and to clients. I was uncomfortable with the way he was treating many of the women who he came in contact with. Being that his job was as a receptionist he came in contact with everyone.
I heard from multiple sources that he had been spreading a rumor that he and I were having an affair.
He was unprofessional and intrusive. He was making me look bad and was turning off the people I had been working so hard to bring in.
I complained to the owner right away. I pointed out that this man was causing a hostile work environment. I complained to the owner a short time later that after a series of encounters with “Joseph” I was beginning to fear for my safety.
Nothing was done. In fact after complaining often times I found myself alone in the gym with only “Joseph”.
Not only have my complaints fallen on deaf ears I have watched time and again as fireable offenses have gone unpunished. He has been caught training his own clients at the gym without permission, effectively stealing revenue from the gym. He was caught on camera bringing a woman to the gym after hours and having sex with her.
He has flirted with clients and I know at least one or two who have complained.
This is a small gym with no security. I have complained and have offered written accounts of what I have seen and experienced. Yet time and time again the owner has given me myriad excuses as to why he can’t let this man go.
“Work with me, Jessica. What can I do?”
“I have no one to replace him.”
I tried reasoning with the owner and giving him simple suggestions for fixing this problem. I didn't want to give an ultimatum because I know they never work. Basically it came down to him or me. He works at the reception desk. That job can be filled a dozen times over with little more effort than posting an ad online or even posting a flier at the front desk.
But nothing has been done. Month after month. I am so angry at myself that I let myself be disrespected and so unappreciated. That I let myself feel threatened and intimidated. That I waited so long.
I have come to realize that I am in a hostile workplace. The fitness industry is by and large progressive when it comes to women in the workplace. Look at any gym and you see girl power on display.
I think that is why this bothers me so much, because a gym I helped build has chosen to side with a male employee over a female teacher.
I don’t think that in locker rooms men talk as grotesquely as Donald Trump would have us believe. But I have experienced first hand the boys club mentality and it angers me to the point that I have begun to tremble all over again.
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