Ottawa woman fights health club over tank top


OTTAWA – Saying she felt “degraded,” an Ottawa woman is pursuing a possible human rights complaint against a local health club that asked her not to wear a tank top allegedly because of the size of her breasts.

But the club, Movati Athletic, was fighting back against Jenna Vecchio Friday, saying while it did not intend to embarrass her, it was she and her husband who chose to make the dispute public.

Vecchio said she has contacted a human rights lawyer and is considering her options after she was told by a female staff member at Movati that her black, form-fitting tank top was making other gym members uncomfortable.

The incident, which took place last Saturday while Vecchio and her husband were working out, left the woman shaken.

“It was humiliating because there were other members around (who) stopped doing what they were doing to listen in on the conversation,” Vecchio told The Canadian Press.

“I felt singled out, degraded,” she added.

“My chest became the focus of conversation and that’s not something a woman likes to discuss openly with people.”

Vecchio wrote about her ordeal on Facebook shortly afterwards under the name Rose Nickels.

The post, including numerous pictures of Vecchio wearing the tank top in question, has since been shared nearly 5,000 times and attracted international media attention.

Vecchio returned to the gym two days later, where she cancelled her membership after speaking with the club manager, who promised to look into the matter and get back to her.

But Vecchio didn’t get a response and said she only heard through the media that Movati is standing by the decision.

In a statement, the company said it launched an investigation after it saw Vecchio’s Facebook post, and that it is upholding the decision to enforce its dress code.

“Following Ms. Vecchio’s own social media postings on this matter, we conducted a thorough investigation which included first-hand accounts from members and other staff, and a follow-up meeting with Jenna herself,” said the statement.

“Upon conclusion of our interviews, we stand by the original decision that confirms that Ms. Vecchio was dressed inconsistently with our code of conduct.”

Movati also called into question whether the pictures she posted online depicted the same outfit she wore to the gym.

“While it may not have been intentional, Ms. Vecchio’s attire was not as modest as she has suggested via the images she shared recently on Facebook and through media interviews,” the company said.

“Although our staff were professional and discreet in their approach, and followed our process of not asking a member to leave or conclude a workout, she and her husband chose to escalate the matter publicly.”

For her, the issue wasn’t her tank top, but rather that she was told she couldn’t wear it because of her chest size despite others being dressed similarly, said Vecchio. She noted that she had worn the same style of tank top at other gyms, including in Halifax where she lived before moving to Ottawa.

“It was quite apparent to me at the time that I was being singled out,” she said.

“I could directly look at another woman in a tank top and they wouldn’t acknowledge the fact that she was wearing a tank top. They kept redirecting it to me, that they were just discussing my tank top and the way my chest appeared in it.”

Vecchio said she doesn’t have an issue with dress codes, only with how Movati applied theirs.

“Dress codes are acceptable. It’s the way that they’re enforced that we need to question.”

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