A former executive of the fitness company SoulCycle has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming pregnancy discrimination.
Jordan Kafenbaum, worked at Soulcycle for 7 years and became a high level executive of the company. Most recently she earned the role as the senior director of instructor programming and talent management. This role made Kafenbaum responsible for the oversight of almost 400 instructors.
However, Kafenbaum alleges that right after she announced her pregnancy to the company, she was discriminated upon by being told she would be demoted after she returns from maternity leave. When Kafenbaum tried to understand the reason why the company only gave her inconsistent excuses. Moreover, 32 days after Kafenbaum gave birth SoulCycle terminated her employment, claiming that they have eliminated her job position due to the economic burden brought on by the pandemic.
The complaint not only focuses on Kafenbaum’s experience, but also alleges that around the same time three other employees also had their positions eliminated either right after returning from maternity leave or while pregnant and working.
Kafenbaum, along with employees who have since spoken out, claim that the company’s image of equality and inclusion is not reflected in their internal practices. For instance, the complaint also mentions that the former CEO, Melanie Whelan had told the company’s senior vice president of global operations and studio experience, Gary Gaines, that “paternity leave is for pussies,” when Whelan heard that Gaines planed to take paternity leave. The complaint goes on to detail that the “news of the comment spread like fire through all levels of SoulCycle employees. Such a statement is unlawful standing alone. But when said by the CEO, it speaks volumes about the culture.”
With these recent allegations SoulCycle has once again been placed in the spotlight for its alleged toxic workplace environment. Before the allegations of pregnancy discrimination, a few instructors in the company also spoke out and even quit due to their concerns about the company’s lack of diversity and inclusion. One of those instructor, Soeuraya Wilson, took to Instagram to say that “”I can no longer allow my body to be used by a company that ultimately stands alongside [its] investors and individuals who continue to support racism and bigotry without true compassion for the health and wellness of the employees and riders,” adding that SoulCycle and its leaders had “failed to lead.”
In response to the allegations made by Kafenbaum, SoulCycle states that her termination was in response not to discrimination but to a “necessary restructuring due to impact of COVID-19.” SoulCycle also states the Kafenbaum was fully paid while on maternity leave and provided severance thus the company “strongly disagrees with the accusations” and “intend to vigorpusly defend itself.”
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