Life Time Fitness came under scrutiny at the Minneapolis City Council last week because the chain of fitness centers does not offer domestic partner benefits for its employees. For several years, Life Time has had a contract with the city of Minneapolis to provide health and fitness memberships to the city’s police and firefighters, but the contract violated a city ordinance requiring vendors with contracts over $100,000 to offer their employees domestic partner benefits. On Thursday, the city council voted to grant Life Time a waiver from the requirement.

City officials said that Life Time was the only company that responded to a request for proposals that fit the criteria the city was looking for, and because of that, they needed to offer a waiver. Life Time said that they could not afford to institute domestic partner benefits for its same-sex employees.

Council member Gary Schiff said he was disappointed with Life Time. “I’m certainly disappointed in Life Time but they aren’t alone. It’s the fitness industry as a whole that has a lot of catching up to do,” he said. “It is in the minority of fortune 500 companies in not treating their gay and lesbian employees equally as their heterosexual counterparts.”

He said the waiver was understandable, but that he wouldn’t be voting for it.

“I know that this exemption was written in for exactly this scenario; we have no one else to grant this contract to,” he said adding that Life Time should still do the right thing.

“We aren’t asking a lot from them. I disagree with their statement that cost is an issue.”

According to city employees, Life Time actually told the city that they were not in compliance with the ordinance mandating that businesses that contract with the city provide domestic partner benefits.

“They are well aware of the ramifications with the city’s contract which is why they disclosed it up front,” said Kevin Carpenter, a representative of the Minneapolis Police Department.

Two other companies that bid for the contract, YWCA and Snap Fitness, do offer domestic partner benefits, but their bids were not sufficient to fulfill the police and fire union contracts that dealt with health and fitness memberships.

Four city council members voted against granting the waiver to Life Time: Cam Gordon, Gary Schiff, Meg Tuthill, and Robert Lilligren.

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