Gym cleared of discrimination against Special Olympian

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A SPECIAL OLYMPIAN with Down Syndrome has lost his discrimination case against a gym over its requirement that he complete a ‘screening’ assessment to participate in future ‘high intensity’ gym classes.

The man claimed that he was discriminated against on the grounds of disability under the Equal Status Act when told he would have to complete the assessment to attend future so called ‘classes on steroids’ on November 1st 2019.
According to the man’s mother, her son participates in numerous activities; is a member of a Special Olympics Club and took part in the Special Olympics in Limerick in 2014. 
The man plays basketball, is a member of a harriers club and attends a gym. 
The woman claimed that her son has never been stopped because of his disability and she said that it is heart-breaking that he was allegedly stopped by the gym.
In her findings however, Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) Adjudicator, Ewa Sobanska concluded that no evidence was presented to establish that the man was subjected to less favourable treatment that any other person without a disability or with a different disability.
Ms Sobanska found the complainant failed to establish a prima facie case of discrimination on the disability ground.
Ms Sobanska further noted that on November 1st 2019, the gym had two young male customers with Down Syndrome participating in kickboxing classes and gym activities.
Ms Sobanska stated that she was satisfied that the complainant was afforded service without any reservations or difficulty in the gym on Monday 28th October 2019 and Wednesday 30th October 2019. 
She stated: “There was no evidence to suggest that he was afforded anything other than the same level of professional care and attention as the other service users that attended the facility at the time.”
Ms Sobanska stated that on the night in question on November 1st, the complainant and his sister arrived very shortly, approximately five minutes, before the class was due to commence. 
Ms Sobanksa stated that while the complainant and his sister decided not to attend the evening class on the 1st November 2019, there was no dispute that the gym owner permitted them to do so, albeit it was not disputed that the gym owner required a screening assessment to take place going forward.
The gym owner told the WRC hearing that his classes were more advanced than a standard gym and everyone is screened, and the complainant in the case was not an exception. 
The gym owner told the WRC hearing he has a brother with Down Syndrome and said that he shared a room with him for the first 18 years of his life. 
The gym owner stated he only wanted to put the complainant’s safety first by conducting a screening for future classes.
The gym coach stated that he also organises pony camps every year for teenagers including persons with disabilities such as Down Syndrome. 
The gym coach acknowledged that regular exercise is important, but it can cause serious damage if done in an unsafe manner.
He said that he “runs the toughest classes in town” and that all participants need to show up 15 minutes before a class in order to be screened and a person cannot present themselves five minutes before a class and expect to be allowed to attend.
The gym owner stated that that it is incorrect for anyone to assume that once they attend one class that they would be permitted to attend all classes. 
He noted that no one would be allowed to attend the evening intense classes if the classes were not suitable for the person and that applied to the complainant’s sister as well.
In an email on November 27th 2019 concerning the November 1st incident, he gym owner stated that the man with Down syndrome wasn’t refused entry on the evening in question. 
In reply to the complainant’s solicitor, the email read “Your client had trained twice previous in a much lighter and easier class set up. 
As your client has a disability and has zero information disclosed on his screening form with details of his disability, a disability that can come with numerous underlying physical and mental conditions…it was and is my call to refuse entry in the busier classes till we make a further assessment based upon what we see in the quieter classes to ensure the safety of your client and the others training at our facility.”
In her findings, Ms Sobanska  stated that the gym owner “appeared to take his obligations in respect of health and safety of the patrons and the duty of care towards his staff very seriously.”
Ms Sobanska stated that it is understandable that the gym owner would wish to obtain some knowledge as to the patrons’ health, experience, and fitness level before permitting them into a high intensity class.
Ms Sobanska stated that due to the nature of the complainant’s disability, he was not in a position to give evidence at the adjudication hearing.

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