The former Peloton instructor claims that he was threatened for requesting disability leave, and routinely degraded for speaking with an Irish accent.
A former Peloton fitness instructor has filed a lawsuit against the company, alleging that executives discriminated against him and mocked him for seeking a COVID-19 vaccination exemption.
According to NBC News, the lawsuit was filed by Daniel McKenna—known as “Irish Yanks” on social media—in a Manhattan civil court earlier this week.
In his complaint, McKenna claims that Peloton Chief Content Officer Jennifer Cotter had also told him that he could be fired for trying to take short-term disability leave after suffering a work-related injury.
Cotter, says the lawsuit, told McKenna that his request for leave was at odds with the so-called “culture” of “corporate America.”
The lawsuit provides some information on the nature and character of McKenna’s relationship with Peloton: after building a significant social media following, Peloton representatives offered McKenna the opportunity to audition for the company.
In October 2021, three months after he was hired, McKenna requested a COVID-19 exemption, after another person told him that the vaccination could impede his post-surgery recovery.
“Remarkably, defendant Cotter made disparaging and denigrating remarks,” the lawsuit claims, adding that Cotter “categorically denied listening to or exploring the potential” for an exemption.
After McKenna finally received a coronavirus vaccination, Cotter purportedly “forced” him to observe a 14-day quarantine period—even after McKenna repeatedly tested negative for the illness.
Cotter also allegedly discriminated against McKenna, who is Irish, telling him that “nobody understands what [you] are saying” in meetings and suggesting that he might be drinking on the job.
“That’s Daniel, our Irish instructor,” McKenna told Peloton’s CEO in one meeting. “He’s rough around the edges and hard to understand, but the members love him.”
When McKenna eventually asked Cotter to stop making comments about his accent and ethnicity, she “unapologetically stated that she was mostly joking.”
Later that year, McKenna took a further two months of disability leave for what his lawsuit describes as another work-related injury.
During a June 2022 meeting, McKenna was told that his future with Peloton was “not looking good.”
McKenna was then fired in September; the lawsuit does not list Peloton’s reasons for termination.
The company offered McKenna a severance package totaling $130,000 upfront; however, Peloton then reversed course and lowered the amount.
The lawsuit, notes NBC News, accuses Peloton of unlawful retaliation, breach of contract, and discrimination on the bases of disability and national origin.
McKenna is seeking an estimated $300,000 in compensatory damages, $1,000,000 in punitive damages, and $500,000 in salary, interest, and benefits.