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Muslim Woman Alleges Gym Prohibited Her Head Covering

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A gym in Albuquerque refused to let a Muslim woman wear her religious head covering when she tried to work out, according to a new lawsuit against the company.

An attorney for Tarainia McDaniel, 37, recently filed the lawsuit in a New Mexico district court stemming from a 2011 clash at a Planet Fitness that prevented McDaniel from using the gym while wearing the head covering, even though court documents said another Planet Fitness in the area had previously let her do so, the Albuquerque Journal reported.

McDaniel joined the gym chain Planet Fitness in Albuquerque on a two-year contract and later transferred to another location, according to the lawsuit.

On Oct. 3, 2011, she was turned away at her new gym and was told the informal head covering didn't meet its dress code, the lawsuit states. The gym had a sign that said "no jeans, work boots, bandanas, skull caps or revealing apparel."

Image: Tarainia McDaniel is photographed in front of Planet Fitness in Albuquerque, N.M.
Tarainia McDaniel is photographed in front of Planet Fitness in Albuquerque, N.M., March 2, 2014. The Albuquerque Planet Fitness refused to let McDaniel a New Mexico Muslim woman, wear her religious head covering when she tried to work out, according to a new lawsuit. An attorney for McDaniel, 37, recently filed the lawsuit in a New Mexico district court stemming after a 2011 clash that prevented McDaniel from using the gym, even though court documents said another Planet Fitness had previously let her. Adolphe Pierre-Louis / Albuquerque Journal via AP file

McDaniel said she asked to be allowed to wear the informal head covering to accommodate her faith, and she even asked if she should come back wearing a formal head covering known as the hijab, according to the lawsuit.

But the gym denied her requests, the lawsuit states.

Gym attorney Erika Anderson said the head covering violates the gym's dress-code policy. "My client's position is that they didn't know the head covering was for religious purposes," Anderson said.

In a statement, the company said gyms take into account members' religious affiliations.

McDaniel's civil lawsuit, filed under the New Mexico Human Rights Act and the Unfair Practices Act, alleges that Planet Fitness illegally based the decision to deny her access upon her religion, or alternatively upon her race — she is African-American — and that the gym had no legitimate reason to deny her entry.

Planet Fitness denies violations of either act. It says McDaniel failed to participate in good faith and that the company has legitimate business reasons for its practice as well as measures to prevent discrimination.

— The Associated Press