Disabled veteran denied service at a Colorado Springs gym over mask policy

Senior Master Sgt. Israel Del Toro outside of Life Time Fitness in Colorado Springs
Senior Master Sgt. Israel Del Toro outside of Life Time Fitness in Colorado Springs(KKTV)
Published: Aug. 19, 2020 at 10:15 PM MDT
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - A disabled veteran says he was denied getting into his local gym because he was not wearing a mask.

Retired Senior Master Sgt. Israel Del Toro cannot wear one because of the burn injuries he sustained in combat in Afghanistan.

After 11 News reached out to Life Time Fitness in Colorado Springs, they apologized.

11 News has shared Del Toro’s struggles during the pandemic before starting back in June when an ENT location would not let him inside without a mask.

“Not only can I not wear the ones around the ear because I don’t have ears, but due to my medical condition, I can’t breathe,” he told us at the time.

Also in June, Peterson Air Force Base acknowledged Del Toro accommodations could have been made to let him in the commissary without a mask because of his disability.

Then, on Wednesday morning he said he was once again told he had to leave a business because he can’t wear a mask. This time it was at his local Life Time Fitness gym, which Del Toro says he has been going to since it reopened in May.

“I check in, they take my temperature, then they pull me aside and they’re like, ‘Hey, uh, DT, we need you to wear a mask. I was like, ‘You know, you can’t refuse me service based on my disability,’ [they were] like, ‘Well, you can’t work out,” explained Del Toro.

Del Toro said he was carrying a doctor’s note, but it didn’t make a difference.

“I’m not gonna lie, I kinda broke down because I was getting tired. How many times am I going to have to go through this?”

Gov. Jared Polis’ mask mandate does make an exception for those with specific disabilities preventing them from wearing a face covering.

“There is a carve-out here for people with a particular disability who simply cannot wear a mask,” said attorney David McDivitt of McDivitt Law Firm. “The governor says a business cannot discriminate against somebody like that if a reasonable accommodation can be made. ... It doesn’t mean they have to accommodate it at all costs, and in fact, there is specific language in the governor’s mask mandate that says if a business is going to have to occur additional expenses in order to accommodate a patron because of their disability, cannot wear a mask, a business might not have to do that.”

We reached out the Life Time Fitness, who released this statement:

“In light of the direct public health threat posed by COVID-19, we have in place a requirement that all members and guests wear masks when visiting the clubs. If any individual indicates a medical reason that prevents them from wearing a mask, our team engages in an interactive process to identify potential alternatives, which still cover the nose and mouth. For example, this may include a face shield, alternative face covering, or another member-suggested accommodation. When an alternative accommodation cannot be identified, we have in place outdoor and online classes and programs as an option, or a complimentary membership freeze until the mask order is lifted. We recognize that each individual is different, and review these accommodations on a case by case basis. As we always aim to deliver positive experiences to all members and guests, we apologize for Sr. Master Sergeant Del Toro’s experience and have contacted him to extend an immediate exemption considering these extenuating circumstances.”

McDivitt said it’s up to the business to make sure all employees are on the same page.

“They’ve got to make sure that the message correctly within their own establishment so every person who is on the front lines who is greeting customers or greeting clients as they come in understands what the corporate policy is or what the business’s policy is.”

Del Toro told 11 News no other option was given to him at the time he was asked to leave, but after 11 News got involved he did receive a call from the local manager saying he would be allowed inside the gym even without a mask.

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