A B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has dismissed a discrimination complaint against a yoga studio by a former client.
The ex-client is a man who claimed that he was stopped from practicing at Westcoast Hot Yoga after he disclosed his mental disability, including a history of addiction to pornography.
The White Rock-based yoga studio countered that Erik Rutherford’s mental health has nothing to do with its decision to keep him out.
Westcoast filed an application to dismiss the complaint, which was granted.
As tribunal member Emily Ohler related in her reasons for decision, Rutherford was banned after he kept on harassing staff, and making accusations that they were gossiping about him.
According to Ohler, Rutherford’s refusal to stop contacting teachers and the studio “left them no choice”.
As Ohler recounted, Rutherford was a client of Westcoast for about eight years.
One employee at the yoga studio has a business outside of Westcoast, which is personal health coaching.
“At some point, Mr. Rutherford sought to become a client of the Coach at her business,” Ohler wrote. “She declined to accept him. Westcoast says Mr. Rutherford told her he was seeking help with sex addiction, which the Coach said was not her field.”
According to Westcoast, things got worse from there.
Ohler related that Rutherford said that he contacted the coach “out of trust as she had offered her health coaching business to me as she said she had male clients from our studio, but admittedly I contacted her partly due to my mental disability as she is an attractive healthy woman”.
According to the yoga studio, after the coach refused to accept him as client, Rutherford “began phoning, texting and emailing Westcoast staff at all hours, making staff and some clients uncomfortable”.
“It says it asked Mr. Rutherford to stop but he did not,” according to the tribunal member. “It says that he was ‘making false statements and accusations’, making teachers, front desk staff and some clients uncomfortable.”
Responding to Westcoast’s application to dismiss his complaint, Rutherford said that his sickness is a “spiritual, mental, physical, and social and financially void disease with many different facets and can easily display itself in sexual manifestations especially when abstaining from drugs and alcohol”.
“Again, I have done tremendously well considering I hadn’t used the dangerous chemicals since early 2003,” Rutherford stated.
According to Ohler, it is “reasonably certain” that Westcoast would be able to “establish its non-discriminatory explanation of having chosen to ask Mr. Rutherford to practice elsewhere”.
“Where its staff and clients were being made to feel uncomfortable by persistent accusations, texts, emails and telephone calls, there is no obligation on the part of the Respondent to require its staff and clients to endure such behaviour from the Complainant,” Ohler wrote.