'Irish Yank' | 

Influencer sues Peloton over claims he was slagged over his Irish ethnicity

Daniel McKenna has more than 120,000 followers on two Instagram pages, one of which posted high-energy workouts.

Daniel McKenna

Neil FetherstonhaughSunday World

A Peloton instructor known as the ‘Irish Yank’ has sued the company after an executive allegedly disparaged his ethnicity and ridiculed him for seeking a Covid-19 vaccination exemption.

In a complaint filed in Manhattan civil court, Daniel McKenna also alleges Chief Content Officer Jennifer Cotter said he could be fired for taking short-term disability leave after a work-related injury and surgery.

The leave was at odds with the culture of “corporate America,” the suit alleges Cotter said.

The fitness equipment company did not respond to a request for comment from US media.

McKenna was invited to audition for the company after building a following as a personal fitness instructor, the suit says.

McKenna has more than 120,000 followers on two Instagram pages, one of which posted high-energy workouts.

He experienced an “80% growth in followers and highest percentage growth of any Peloton instructor,” the suit claims.

According to the complaint, McKenna underwent an unexpected surgery in October 2021, and he didn't want to get the COVID-19 vaccine for fear it could impede his recovery.

Cotter is alleged to have made disparaging remarks toward McKenna about wanting a medical exemption, the lawsuit said, and McKenna eventually got the vaccine out of fear of losing his job.

Cotter also allegedly used Irish stereotypes toward McKenna, including asking him if he was drunk on the job and pointing out his accent, telling him, "Nobody understands what you are saying, Daniel," the lawsuit said.

"That's Daniel our Irish instructor, he's rough around the edges and hard to understand but the members love him," she told the CEO, according to the suit.

When McKenna asked Cotter to stop the comments in a phone call, she "unapologetically stated that she was mostly joking," the suit claims.

In spring 2022, McKenna experienced sharp and debilitating pain in his pectorals. He underwent immediate surgery, and his doctors told him recovery would take six months. By May, McKenna was feeling better and told Cotter and his bosses that he could return to work on July 1.

Before he returned to work, Cotter met with McKenna and told him that he should be fired for taking short-term disability and that he was on "thin ice," according to the lawsuit.

On Sept. 12, Peloton fired McKenna "for cause," but according to the lawsuit, McKenna had not received any written notices regarding his behaviour or misconduct that violated any Peloton employment agreements.

During the meeting in which he was fired, McKenna was not provided with any reasoning for his termination, the lawsuit said.

The suit claims unlawful retaliation, breach of contract and disability and national origin discrimination.

He's now seeking damages for the harm to his career, as well as mental and emotional distress.

McKenna is seeking $300,000 in compensatory damages, $1 million in punitive damages and $500,000 in salary, interest and benefits, according to the suit.

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