One of the boutique fitness scene’s biggest players is seriously in the hot (bike) seat.
A cycling instructor is suing her former employer, Flywheel Sports, in federal court for alleged labor violations and sexual harassment, claiming that the company forces new employees to work for free for 12 weeks before they can get paid, and often face harassment from male coworkers, the New York Daily News reports. (It’s the second lawsuit this summer for a major cycling chain, after a SoulCycle rider sued the company claiming she was injured because of an overzealous instructor.)
Melissa Wolfe, an instructor at an undisclosed Manhattan location, says that as a new trainer, you must learn the “Flywheel Method,” which requires four to six hours per week of actual on-bike training, plus another 15 to 20 hours of non-class training (learning things like creating the perfect playlist and designing effective routines)—all of which is completely unpaid.
After the training period, Wolfe says that instructors get compensated $75 to $150 for each class they teach, but nothing for the other hours they’re required to work in the gyms, so net pay adds up to less than minimum wage.
In addition to the wage dispute—for which Wolfe is asking for back pay—the former instructor claims to have been the victim of years of sexual harassment from a male coworker, who allegedly “touched her butt and urged her to ‘sex it up’ by assuming ‘third position'” (AKA leaning way forward in your bike stance), according to the Daily News.
Wolfe’s lawsuit claims that although she repeatedly complained about it to her boss during her three years at Flywheel, the situation did not change. In fact, she says that initially her hours were cut, and then she was scheduled seven days a week for months. Wolfe was fired last month after she resisted teaching more students, the Daily News reports.
When asked to comment, a rep for Flywheel said: “Although we cannot comment on the pending lawsuit and Ms. Wolfe’s specific allegations, we deny the allegations in Ms. Wolfe’s complaint and take seriously our obligation to comply with all applicable laws. Moreover, we highly value our instructors—they are core to our business and we treat them fairly and respectfully.”
This has been a big year for Flywheel, with a major brand overhaul and ambitious plans for the company—but if Wolfe’s allegations are true, the Flywheel Method could use some fine-tuning.
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