Gold’s Gym Settles Sexual Harassment Claim

Company CEO Accused of Verbal Sexual Harassment

Credit: Google Street View

A sexual harassment claim against Gold’s Gym in downtown Santa Barbara and its CEO Angel Banos ended in a settlement last week of $675,000 to Dina Murillo, who once managed the gym on Carrillo Street.

Murillo filed against Gold’s, under its corporate entity Santa Barbara Corporate Fitness (SBCF), in 2018 and alleged that Banos sexually harassed her and other female employees and clients at the gym. Murillo had worked for Gold’s predecessor companies since 1997, coming to Santa Barbara as a regional manager for three locations, according to the lawsuit, which Banos bought with his brother, Willy Banos, in 2016. The lawsuit alleged Murillo was fired after she reported Banos’s behavior to upper management and details multiple instances of Angel Banos allegedly “creeping out the members and employees.” It continues on to say that despite Murillo’s reports of Banos’s concerning behavior to her direct supervisor and upper management, they took no direct action; she was terminated the same year despite successful work performance, the court documents claim.

Angel Banos could not be reached for comment, but his lawyer Alfred De La Cruz disputed the claims of harassment in an email statement. De La Cruz wrote that Murillo only brought the claims after learning she would be fired for poor performance. “[SBCF] and Angel Banos acted appropriately at all times regarding Ms. Murillo,” he said. “The parties mutually agreed to settle the matter with no admission of wrongdoing by any party,” he stated, and that the decision to settle “was made solely to bring closure to this long fought dispute.”

In a press release from Murillo’s attorney, James H. Cordes, she commented that her termination was in retaliation for her advocacy for other women on staff and who were clients. According to the legal papers, Murillo suffered “substantial losses in earnings and job benefits” and “mental anguish and emotional distress.” According to Cordes, the settlement holds Banos and Gold’s accountable for their actions.

Though most settlements include an agreement not to comment on the lawsuit, Cordes said in a phone conversation that California law has broken that silence when it came to sexual harassment. Cordes highlighted a new California policy called the Silenced No More Act (SB 331) that allows people to speak about the factual information relating to claims of sexual harassment, as well as discrimination and retaliation, despite a settlement agreement. “In general, for people who’ve been sexually harassed in the workplace, if they do settle a case, they can’t be compelled to not talk about the facts,” said Cordes.

Murillo no longer works at Gold’s Gym, nor any gym, according to her LinkedIn profile; she now owns a boutique in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone. Of the court case, she said, “The experience was long and arduous, and I’m glad that it’s over so I can go back to living my life. … I hope that, at the very least, they learn to treat everyone equally and fairly.”


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