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Jazzercise Teacher Wins Bias Fight

May 08, 2002|From Associated Press

Jazzercise Inc. says it no longer will require instructors to look trim and fit, settling a woman's complaint that she was refused a job because she weighed 240 pounds.

The change in company policy, based on a settlement with the San Francisco woman and mediated by the city's Human Rights Commission, was announced Monday.

"Recent studies document that it may be possible for people of varying weights to be fit," Jazzercise said in the settlement. "Jazzercise has determined that the value of 'fit appearance' as a standard is debatable."

Jennifer Portnick, 38, complained that San Diego-based Jazzercise refused to hire her as an exercise-class instructor because her build--5-foot-8, 240 pounds--would give students the impression she was not in shape.

She filed a complaint in February alleging discrimination under San Francisco's "fat and short" law, which bars discrimination on the basis of weight and height.

Portnick said she works out six days a week and has mastered the complex dance steps required to teach Jazzercise. She now runs her own fitness program and said she does not plan to reapply to Jazzercise.

"I'm absolutely thrilled with this outcome," she said. "I'm lucky to live in San Francisco, where there's a law to protect people like me."

In a letter to Portnick last year, Maureen Brown, Jazzercise's director of franchise programs, wrote that "Jazzercise sells fitness."

"Consequently, a Jazzercise applicant must have a higher muscle-fat ratio and look leaner than the public," Brown wrote. "People must believe Jazzercise will help them improve, not just maintain their level of fitness."

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