Hundreds of GoodLife Fitness instructors across Canada have been let go, the company says.
In a statement emailed to Global News, GoodLife Fitness Chief Operating Officer Jason Sheridan said the company recently “made the difficult decision to end the employment of 480 group fitness instructors from 189 clubs across the country.”
“Unfortunately, due to COVID restrictions on group activities, most of these instructors have not worked for the majority of the pandemic,” he said. “We recognize this is a challenging situation, and we are focused on supporting these individuals as they look for other opportunities, including various open positions at GoodLife.”
Sheridan said the pandemic restrictions “have been hard on the entire fitness industry and especially hard on group activities.”
“Because of this, we will not be able to expand our group fitness schedules in the near future to the point of bringing back additional instructors,” he said.
According to Sheridan, the instructors were notified via their GoodLife email, and were sent an “invitation to schedule follow-up calls” to address any questions.
In an email to Global News, Adam Roberts, a spokesperson for GoodLife Fitness said impacted employees were informed on March 2.
The same day, the company posted a tweet regarding a ‘Personal Training National Career Webinar.’
Roberts said “like many businesses, GoodLife is continuing on the road to pandemic recovery and currently has hundreds of other positions we are recruiting for.”
“That is where the career fair comes in,” he said. “We recognize this is a challenging situation for the impacted individuals, and we are focused on supporting them as they look for other opportunities, including with various open positions at GoodLife.”
One former employee, who spoke to Global News on the condition of anonymity, said the whole situation has been a “rollercoaster.” She worked for the company for more than 15 years.
She said she was a fitness instructor, and taught various group classes including yoga and dance.
“There was so much hope seeing things open back up – not just fitness clubs but other industries opening back up further – and vaccine mandates being lifted,” she said. “It was really moving in a positive direction so there was this huge feeling of hope, at least for myself, that we were getting back to normal and that maybe going to start to return to some of those things, the classes and the members that we knew and loved.”
She said she feels as though she’s in a state of “shock” now that the hope is gone.
What’s more, she said “it would have been nice to have the opportunity to speak with someone” about the termination, instead of receiving the news via email.
She said so far, she has not received any correspondence regarding an exit interview from GoodLife Fitness.
“We were given email contacts, if we had questions to reach out,” she said. “I haven’t been offered any sort of interview or follow-up in person or on the telephone. I’m still deciding which way I want to go on that.”
Asked about the job fair tweet, the employee called it a “slap in the face.”
“To have so many people be terminated, and then just a day or two later to see that there is a job fair?” she said “It’s kind of baffling honestly, you know, what sort of thinking was happening at that point?”
Asked whether she and other employees are thinking about pursuing legal action over the terminations, she said “she’s not sure.”
“I’m still exploring some avenues, so we’ll sort of see what happens,” she said. “And I think at this point, it’s up to everybody to decide whether they want to fight something like this, or whether that heartache and that turmoil will just be too much for them and they would like to let it go and start to move on.”
Another employee who Global News spoke with said she worked for the company for nearly 11 years, and taught around 10 classes per week. Global News has also agreed to protect her identity over fears of potential backlash.
She said because of an exclusivity agreement, she and other instructors were not allowed to teach fitness classes elsewhere.
“GoodLife holds all of my certifications and therefore decimated my fitness career,” a statement emailed to Global News says.
“I cannot work anywhere else as they hold exclusivity of our international certifications,” she said.
Severance for terminated employees
In an email to Global News, Jon Pinkus, a partner at employment law Firm Samfiru Tumarkin, said severance for terminated employees could be up to 24 months’ pay and benefits, depending on their age, position and the amount of time they worked for the company.
“Severance is also affected by an individual’s ability to find new work, especially if they worked in a specialized role or require retraining,” Pinkus explained. “This would apply only for those who are non-unionized.”
Pinkus said if employees who have been terminated have not been paid severance or offered an adequate severance package, they “have been wrongfully dismissed” and could file a lawsuit.
“They should absolutely talk to an employment lawyer right away,” he wrote.
However, Pinkus said a lawsuit or legal claim may not even be necessary, “as these are typically straightforward matters to resolve.”
“Employees also have a right to review their legal options after being let go, and don’t have to accept a severance offer by a deadline set by their employer,” he said. “The reality is that they have two years after their termination to file a legal claim for severance.”
-With files from Global News’ Brittany Rosen