- A former SoulCycle executive filed a complaint Tuesday accusing the company of discriminating against her for pregnancy.
- In a complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in New York, Jordan Kafenbaum said she was exhumed after discovering she was pregnant and then fired 32 days after giving birth.
- The complaint also alleges that Melanie Whelan, the former general manager of SoulCycle, told a senior vice president that “paternity leave is for pussies”.
- A SoulCycle spokesman said in a statement that the company “strongly disagrees with the allegations”; and “intends to vigorously defend itself.”
- Visit the Business Insider homepage for more stories.
A SoulCycle employee who was responsible for overseeing nearly 400 instructors said in a lawsuit filed Tuesday that she was discriminated against for pregnancy. The lawsuit also describes other cases of parental leave objection throughout the company.
In the complaint, filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in New York, Jordan Kafenbaum said she was fired 32 days after giving birth. Kafenbaum had worked at the company for nearly seven years, most recently as senior director of instructor programming and talent management.
The complaint says SoulCycle executives told Kafenbaum that her position was being eliminated due to financial concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic. He also claims that Kafenbaum faced discrimination for being pregnant and that SoulCycle’s involvement professions hid deeper issues within the company.
The complaint alleges Melanie Whelan, who was CEO of SoulCycle until he retired in November, told Gary Gaines, the company’s senior vice president of global operations and studio experience, who had planned to obtain paternity leave, that “paternity leave is for pussies” in August 2019.
“News of the comment spread like wildfire to all levels of SoulCycle employees,” the complaint said. “Such a statement is illegal only on its own. But when said by the CEO, it speaks volumes about culture.”
Whelan did not immediately comment on the lawsuit when contacted by Business Insider.
The complaint alleges that SoulCycle’s approach to pregnancy and parental leave affected the way Kafenbaum was treated after she discovered her pregnancy in September.
Last February, SoulCycle’s management told Kafenbaum that it would relocate to a new position, which it saw as a relocation, the complaint said. He adds that the company offered “contradictory excuses” before the pandemic to explain why Kafenbaum would be forced to step into a different position after maternity leave.
Kafenbaum was born on March 25th. On April 27, Kafenbaum was told that SoulCycle was eliminating its position due to the financial strain of the pandemic, the complaint states. Claimed that three other women whose positions had been eliminated around the same time had either recently returned from maternity leave or were pregnant.
The lawsuit follows other concerns about involvement in SoulCycle
A SoulCycle representative told Business Insider in a statement that the company “strongly disagrees with the allegations” and “intends to vigorously defend itself.”
“SoulCycle offers paid parental leave for all full-time employees,” said the SoulCycle representative. “Ms. Kafenbaum was unfortunately fired as part of a much-needed restructuring due to the impact of COVID-19. She was paid for the entire maternity leave and offered aggravation.”
The complaint arose shortly after two instructors left due to concerns about involvement in SoulCycle, which has described itself as an “inclusive culture of inspiration and empowerment”.
Mary Kate Hurlbutt said in an Instagram post in late July that she was disappointed with “SoulCycle’s historic lack of time, energy and resources leading to the creation of a safe and inclusive environment for staff and riders alike”.
Similarly, Soeuraya Wilson, who was described as the children instructor of SoulCycle posters, said in a post in mid-July: “I can no longer allow my body to be used by a company that ultimately stands support investors and individuals who continue to support racism and bigotry without genuine compassion for the health and well-being of employees and riders. ” Wilson added that SoulCycle and its executives had “failed to lead”.