Ads seek black plaintiffs in Holiday Spas bias suit

November 11, 1990|By Michael Ollove

A paid advertisement is running in The Baltimore Sun and other East Coast newspapers today to help attorneys in a class-action lawsuit identify what they believe may be thousands of blacks who may have been illegally discouraged from joining Holiday Fitness Spas, a franchise of health clubs headquartered in Towson.

U.S. District Court Judge Joseph C. Howard ordered the advertisement as lawyers for the plaintiffs and Holiday Spas prepare to go to trial in late February.

The advertisement is running in newspapers in Boston, Baltimore, Washington and Atlanta in an effort to locate blacks who may have been discouraged from joining one of Holiday Spas' 40 clubs or who allegedly were steered to clubs in predominantly black areas.

Roderic Boggs, executive director of the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which has arranged for legal representation for the plaintiffs, said yesterday that no one knows how many people may have been improperly denied membership in the clubs.

However, he said that more than 2,000 notices have been sent to potential claimants identified from Holiday Spa records and present and former spa employees. In addition to those individuals, Mr. Boggs said, "thousands and thousands of others" may have suffered from the company's alleged discriminatory practices since 1985.

Holiday Spas, which is owned by the Health and Tennis Corp. of America, a subsidiary of the Bally Manufacturing Corp., has been embroiled in allegations of discrimination in membership and employment and promotions for two years.

In 1989, the company signed a consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department, which had accused it of discriminatory membership practices.

The settlement of that lawsuit, which barred Holiday from continuing those practices, did not encompass punitive damages -- one of thegoals of the present lawsuit.

Holiday Spas has never acknowledged that it acted in a discriminatory manner. Yesterday, the company emphasized that it has "tens of thousands" of black members.

The advertisement appears in The Sun today on Page 23B and in The Washington Post and The Atlanta Constitution. Next week, it will run in The Boston Globe and The Philadelphia Inquirer. It also is scheduled to run this week in newspapers oriented toward black audiences, including The Afro-American.

Mr. Boggs said that he expects the total cost of the newspaper advertisements to be about $40,000, with most of that money coming from the plaintiffs.

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