A judge Monday ordered a June court appearance by a former manager at two USA Fitness gyms in the San Fernando Valley who sued his ex-employer, alleging he was fired in 2018 in retaliation for complaining about unsafe conditions and the defrauding of members.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Stephanie M. Bowick said that if Carlos Martin fails to appear on June 29, she will dismiss his lawsuit, which was filed last Sept. 16 and alleges whistleblower retaliation, wrongful termination and a violation of the state Labor Code. He seeks unspecified damages.
Neither Martin nor an attorney representing him appeared for Monday’s scheduled case management conference. The lawyer who filed the case on his behalf, Manbir S. Chowdhary, withdrew from the case in November, citing an “irreparable breakdown in the attorney-client relationship.”
Martin, who could not be immediately reached for comment, has more than 15 years experience in the fitness industry and was recruited by USA Fitness’ district manager to manage the North Hollywood and Sylmar locations, the suit states.
Martin received positive feedback about his work from his supervisors and peers until he complained about and objected to the company’s “scheme to knowingly defraud existing and potential gym members” and the “unsafe working conditions for himself and other employees,” the suit states.
According to the suit, Martin and other sales personnel were told by the district manager to refrain from discussing cancellation or automatic renewals with new members.
The employees also were instructed to make false representations to potential customers to induce them into gym memberships, the suit additionally alleges.
Martin further alleges sales team members were told to not provide cancellation addresses to any existing member, that USA Fitness continued to bill members after the expiration of their terms and that members would be charged additional penalties if they did not have a checking account on file.
The USA Fitness owner told Martin that by the time members realized they had been overcharged, only half would follow up to claim their money back, the suit states. Martin also was instructed to automatically renew memberships without member consent, according to the suit.
USA Fitness in the pre-pandemic era also required the gym sales staff, including Martin, to work outdoors in extreme summer heat to sell memberships in violation of Cal/OSHA rules that obligate employers to protect workers “from recognized serious hazards in the workplace, including heat-related hazards,” the suit states.
Martin alleges he was required to walk around North Hollywood to enroll new members despite having a bad back, and he claims that management was aware of his condition.
When Martin complained about USA Fitness’ alleged practices and work conditions, the company owner replied, “You’re only here to sell memberships. You can get the hell out if you don’t want to want to do things my way,” the suit states.
Martin was fired Sept. 25, 2018, and as a result has suffered substantial financial losses and missed career opportunities, and his reputation has been hurt, according to the suit.