The Port Elizabeth gym sales boss accused of physical and verbal abuse against staff at the Walmer branch of a national gym group, has been fired.
This is according to Faizell Porter, of Bay non-profit organisation the Independent Workers Advice Centre (IWAC), which has assisted two former employees in their grievances against the Walmer club’s sales manager Nolan Leslie.
Planet Fitness instituted an internal disciplinary hearing last week, and according to Porter the hearing ended late on Monday with Leslie’s dismissal and a recall of former employee Kristen Clarke.
She was allegedly verbally abused before being fired by Leslie after she had refused his order to drink sour milk.
The Herald has seen social media correspondence between Planet Fitness’s Johannesburg-based human resources manager Ryno Strydom and Clarke stating Leslie had been dismissed.
In the same correspondence, Clarke, who had been fired by Leslie about a month ago, was asked to return to work.
When contacted yesterday Strydom refused to confirm whether Leslie had been dismissed.
“I cannot discuss any internal proceedings. You will have to put your request in through official channels,” he said.
When contacted, the gym’s public relations consultant Shiri Reouveni said she was not aware of the development and that she needed time to confirm Leslie’s employment status at the club.
Efforts to contact Labournet’s Arno Swart, who chaired Leslie’s hearing, and Leslie himself were unsuccessful yesterday.
Leslie was accused of a string of abuses which took place over more than a year and included forcing sales staff to consume substances ranging from aloe leaves, alcohol, pharmaceuticals and leaves from trees to sour milk.
Another former employee, Dorian Stuart, was allegedly head-butted and in separate instances had one eyebrow and half the hair on his head shaved off, allegedly by Leslie and in front of other staff members.
Stuart is currently undergoing psychological treatment as a result.
The Herald is also in possession of an audio clip recorded at the club on August 22 in which Leslie is heard verbally abusing staff, calling some “f ***** s” and another a mother “f ***** r”.
Both Clarke and Stuart have laid criminal complaints at the Walmer Police Station and have pending cases with the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) regarding their employment at the club.
While Clarke presented herself for the conciliation component of the case at the CCMA on Friday, Planet Fitness failed to send a representative, meaning the case moves into the arbitration phase.
IWAC yesterday hailed the dismissal as a “victory against the abuse and victimisation of women in the workplace”.
“No woman deserves to be bullied and victimised in the workplace by a male boss. And no employee of any gender deserves to be bullied and victimised in their workplace,” Porter said.
“We therefore welcome the outcome of the hearing and despite that we are very uncomfortable with the way the hearing was conducted, we are pleased with the outcome.”
He said the gym’s continued refusal to engage with IWAC meant that instead of being able to come to an amicable agreement with the gym group, IWAC and Clarke would proceed with the CCMA case, particularly as there were outstanding issues, such as loss of income and potential intimidation in the workplace, which needed to be addressed.