Club Insider

About Paul R. Bedard, Esquire

Paul R. Bedard, EsquirePaul R. Bedard, Esquire

"Paul Bedard has nearly twenty years of experience in the health and fitness industry. He's currently a Partner and the Director of Operations for Crunch Fitness Connecticut. He's also a practicing attorney. Paul strives to be active in his local community and has served on the Southington Zoning Board of Appeals and the Board of the Central Connecticut Regional Planning Agency. He also volunteers and fundraises for various local charities."

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Email: paul@crunchct.com

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"Insider Speaks"
Transgender Legal Considerations for Health Club Operators

March 2016 - If a transgender individual requests access to the locker room within your club that corresponds with their gender identity, how do you or your front line staff respond? This question, like most, is one that is best answered with the benefit of advance preparation. This requires the proactive formulation of a policy that complies with your specific jurisdictional requirements and the thorough training of your employees in this regard. Once enacted, your policy should be included within your employee training materials and within your membership agreement. Read Article...

Club Legal Considerations for the New Year
January 2015 - Given the effort required to create a financially successful health club, it is imperative to protect your business by minimizing your legal risk. Potential legal issues, like sales objections, are best addressed by acting preemptively. The first quarter of each new year is as good a time as any to take stock of your preparedness for the legal hazards that lurk within our industry. This article has been produced by request of Club Insider Publisher, Norm Cates, to help club owners and operators focus on important legal matters for their clubs and deal with them appropriately. Read Article...

Complying With the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and Avoiding TCPA Lawsuits
July 2018 - Congress passed the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) in 1991. The TCPA was subsequently signed into law by President George H. W. Bush as Pubic Law 102-243. This law was designed to limit telephone solicitations, including those involving automated dialing systems, fax machines, artificial or pre-recorded messages and text messages during a time when telephone landlines were the predominant form of communication and when many consumers were being exposed to unsolicited calls from telemarketers at nearly all hours of the day and night. Read Article...

Data Breach Protection and Actions to Take Should One Occur
March 2018 - Not that long ago, nearly all health club membership agreements and other club forms were in paper form. These paper agreements and forms required physical safekeeping to guard against unauthorized access to information. However, health clubs have continued to embrace advances in technology, and the industry has largely moved to paperless operations. Nowadays, signing up new members and handling in-club purchases rarely requires putting pen to paper. Yet, as the industry becomes more reliant on digital information and technology, the risk of members' payment card information and personally identifiable information becoming compromised is omnipresent. Read Article...

Defamatory Social Media Reviews
April 2018 - It takes time and effort for any business to establish and maintain a positive reputation. Whether a health club is creating raving fans or blatantly mistreating their customers, social media review sites allow users to quickly spread the word. Although much of what can be found on these sites tends to genuinely inform consumers and validate those health clubs that provide outstanding products and services, reviewers can easily post distorted or even blatantly false reviews resulting in damaging and unwarranted reputational harm. When an intentionally false and damaging social media review is posted, this may give rise to a defamation claim. Read Article...

Federal Court Strikes Down Final Rule
September 2017 - In last September's issue of Club Insider, I wrote about the Fair Labor Standards Act's (FLSA) Final Rule: impending legislation that was, at that time, scheduled to take effect on December 1, 2016. Last September's article focused on how health club owners and operators could prepare for this significant new legislation. However, in November of 2016, Judge Amos L. Mazzant of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas stalled this legislation when he issued a preliminary injunction. Following this injunction, the Department of Labor (DOL) promptly filed an appeal, and the Fifth Circuit Court of appeals is scheduled to hear oral arguments later this year. In the meantime, business owners and operators have been left in a state of limbo on this issue. Read Article...

Health Club Employee Non-Compete Agreements
March 2015 - It's no secret that most health clubs initially lose money. It typically takes months, and in some cases, years to painstakingly build a large enough membership base to turn a profit. As this membership base and the club's resulting goodwill are established, club owners and operators naturally pay close attention to member retention. Read Article...

How to Maximize the Enforceability of Your Membership Agreement
October 2017 - The repeated and ongoing execution of membership agreements is obviously pivotal to the success of any health club. However, a signed membership agreement is not necessarily synonymous with an enforceable agreement. Moreover, a membership agreement that is in violation of your applicable laws will not only render the agreement unenforceable, it may also prove to be a financial liability. However, by understanding the laws as they apply to your business and by practicing sound sales and trade practices, you can maximize the enforceability of your membership agreement. Read Article...

Key Components of an Effective Compliance Program
August 2017 - Policies and procedures, including but not limited to those prohibiting sexual harassment and discrimination, or those detailing how to respond to sudden emergencies or handle issues of confidentiality, are ultimately useless if they cannot be consistently complied with. Whatever the policy or procedure, an effective compliance program will help to ensure that theory translates into practice. An effective compliance program requires clearly articulated written policies and procedures, designated oversight, ongoing education and training, internal auditing and monitoring, reporting mechanisms, active enforcement and discipline and demonstrated response and prevention. Read Article...

Lawsuit Stemming From Transgender Locker Room Policy Revived
August 2018 - The Michigan Court of Appeals recently ruled that a lawsuit against Planet Fitness will move forward and be sent back to trial court due to the gym's violation of the Michigan Consumer Protection Act (MCPA). Although the lawsuit originated from a complaint regarding Planet Fitness' transgender-friendly locker room policy, the Court's analysis of the MCPA provides broader insight into how one court interpreted a consumer protection statute and its applicability to a health club membership agreement. Read Article...

Legal Ramifications When a Member or Guest Suffers From an Eating Disorder
November 2017 - Eating disorders are life-threatening for many, and these dangerous health conditions are far more complex than most people realize. In a briefing paper published by IHRSA entitled, Eating Disorders, Dr. Ron Thompson of the Bloomington Center for Counseling and Human Development described eating disorders as, "not simply disorders of eating; they are mental disorders that manifest themselves in a variety of eating and weight-related symptoms. They are potentially life-threatening disorders with multiple determinants and serve multiple functions and purposes for the affected individual." The most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder. Read Article...

Locker Room Legal Issues
February 2018 - Although most people view a locker room as simply an essential health club amenity, various legal issues involving personal privacy, safety and even potentially illegal discrimination originate from locker room usage and related policies. Whether trying to protect members and guests from voyeurism, the theft of personal belongings or to avoid maintaining a locker room usage policy that may be deemed illegally discriminatory, it pays for health club owners and operators to proactively address these issues. Read Article...

Mitigating Liability Through the Proper Hiring, Training and Ongoing Certification of Employees
September 2015 - You've just signed up a new personal training client! A liability waiver has been executed and your new client has been placed with your head trainer! Other than failing to retain your new client, what could possibly go wrong? As I learned years ago when I would ask my law school professors which way a case should be decided, "It depends." Read Article...

Protect Your Confidential and Proprietary Information, Knowledge and Materials with Non-Disclosure Agreements
July 2017 - A non-disclosure agreement, also known as a confidentiality agreement, is a legal agreement that is made between at least two parties that details the information, knowledge and materials being shared between the parties and the legal obligations created by the agreement. Among other uses, a non-disclosure agreement can be utilized within an employment agreement to safeguard company-owned confidential information or to protect knowledge, information and materials shared with an outside party for the purposes of exploring a potential business relationship. Non-disclosure agreements can be mutual or unilateral. A mutual agreement is utilized when both parties are sharing anything that is considered confidential. A unilateral agreement is used when only one party is making a disclosure. Read Article...

Qualities of Effective Counsel
May 2018 - "This article is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice. Widely varying laws specific to each jurisdiction prohibit one-size-fits-all recommendations. Please consider these comments as an educational guide to assist you when you consult your own attorney for specific direction." If you have read my previous Club Insider articles, you have repeatedly read the last four sentences. Yet, what qualities should you look for in an attorney to ensure that you engage truly effective counsel? Read Article...

Risk Management
How to Minimize Your Legal Exposure to Slip and Fall Claims

February 2017 - It's no secret that these are competitive times for the health and fitness club industry. Given the effort required to generate increased revenues, it can be challenging to find time to develop a sound risk management strategy. However, whether training your people to effectively respond to a medical emergency, designing your employment practices to minimize the likelihood of an employment dispute or methodically inspecting and maintaining your premises to mitigate your exposure to premises liability claims, you must be proactive from a risk management standpoint. Read Article...

Risk Management
How to Minimize Your Potential Legal Exposure to Employment Disputes

March 2017 - Employment lawsuits, including claims of discrimination, sexual harassment and wrongful termination, are among the most common lawsuits filed against companies in the United States. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), nearly 75% of all litigation against corporations involves employment disputes. It has also been reported that the median judgment resulting from an EEOC charge is approximately $200,000 and that the average duration of an employment claim is 275 days. Read Article...

Risk Management
Minimize the Likelihood of Medical Emergencies and Mitigate Your Responsive Liability

April 2017 - Most health club owners and operators rightfully find themselves contemplating the inevitable medical emergency. It has been reported that more than 10,000 people are treated in emergency rooms daily for injuries stemming from exercise, sports and recreation. Many suffer injuries while using exercise equipment, with treadmills being involved in a significant percentage of these incidents. More than 250,000 Americans die annually due to sudden cardiac arrest, with a significant number of these cardiac events transpiring within health clubs. Although certain types of medical emergencies are beyond anyone's control, consistent operational practices guided by a targeted risk management strategy can reduce the likelihood of others. Read Article...

Telephone Consumer Protection Act Case Update
November 2018 - In July's issue of Club Insider, I provided some information and suggestions aimed at helping club owners and operators to maintain compliance with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and to avoid the recent explosion of TCPA lawsuits. As I reported in July, the frequency of TCPA lawsuits has increased 1,298% between 2010 and 2016! Given this surge of litigation, and the potentially crippling financial repercussions, staying abreast of TCPA legal developments and maintaining compliance in this regard is essential. Read Article...

The Components of an Enforceable Clickwrap Agreement
October 2018 - Health clubs began the switch from paper to digital agreements and waivers many years ago. Whether a member or guest signs a document via pen, stylus or keyboard, the same legal principles apply. Therefore, a court will apply traditional principles of contract law when determining enforceability. Yet, the legality of digital agreements also involves some nuances that require attention. Read Article...

The FLSA's "Final Rule" and How to Prepare for It
September 2016 - The fact that many employers struggle with wage and hour compliance, combined with employees having a greater awareness of their employment rights, has contributed to an already healthy boost in wage and hour disputes. A new law will almost certainly increase the volume of these disputes. The Fair Labor Standards Act's "Final Rule" takes effect on December 1, 2016. This new law dramatically raises the standard salary level for exempt employees and will further accelerate the increasing trend of wage and hour litigation. Read Article...

Utilizing a Cease and Desist Letter to Enforce Your Legal Rights and Protect Your Interests
May 2017 - What is one of the first things you should do upon learning that one of your former employees is in violation of their non-compete agreement, soliciting your current and former clients while working for your greatest competitor? What actions should you initially take upon discovering that another health club is using your protected logo or engaging in any activity that violates your legal rights or damages your protected interests? Read Article...

What Are the Elements of a Legal Contract?
June 2018 - Health club owners and operators are routinely parties to contracts. Some of these contracts are formal and complex, whereas others are informal and simple. However, regardless of these specifics, what constitutes a legal contract? An enforceable contract requires three elements: an offer, acceptance and consideration. There must also be a meeting of the minds between the contracting parties, along with an absence of fraud, duress, legal incapacity or any one of the many legal defenses to a breach of contract claim. Although contracts can generally be oral or verbal, some types of contracts must be reduced to writing. State laws govern contract enforceability and these laws vary, adding yet another legal facet that requires analysis when trying to determine whether a contract is legal. Read Article...

What Does At-Will Employment Mean?
January 2018 - Employment litigation continues to represent one of the most complicated and significant facets of legal exposure for health clubs. Some employers mistakenly assume that hiring employees "at-will" equates to a blanket authority to dismiss these employees at any time, regardless of the motive or rationale behind the decision, without potential liability. Although the authority to terminate an at-will employee is somewhat broad, it is not absolute. Statutory protections, common law exceptions to the at-will employment doctrine and tort causes of action limit this authority. Read Article...

When A Health Club's Dress Code Conflicts With A Member's Religious Beliefs
June 2017 - Most health club owners and operators have had to decline or terminate someone's membership against that person's will for any number of reasons. Theft, threatening conduct, inappropriate attire and unsafe use of equipment are just some of the reasons that immediately come to mind. Yet, when does denying someone membership constitute illegal discrimination? It depends. Some instances of such discrimination are blatant, while others require individual analysis of the facts at issue and the federal, state and local laws that apply within the jurisdiction. Read Article...

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