Yoga studios use a variety of business models. Typically, these vary between a teacher renting a room somewhere to a small business partnership to a non-profit. Generally, the vibe is a crunchy mix of positivity, community, exercise and spiritual growth. Called the Starbucks’s of yoga with over 200 studios across the U.S., CorePower Yoga is a different model altogether. It has also faced three federal lawsuits in recent years with over $3 million in settlements without admitting liability.
The previous suits involved using students to clean the studio or man the desk in return for free classes in what was called a yoga for trade arrangement, which still amounted to underpaying student workers. There were also two cases alleging that teachers were required to do off-the-clock tasks like creating new music playlists or yoga sequences for class, which also brought the pay for work below the minimum wage.
Corporate sales goals
CorePower now faces a lawsuit filed by 1,200 of its teachers in 35 states. According to the New York Times, the company pressures its teachers to actively recruit students to participate in its lucrative and costly eight-week teacher training program, which students later find out can lead to more special workshops that can cost thousands of more dollars. Some students were then surprised to find that there was no job waiting for them after the training, despite signing a contract stating that there was not a job waiting for them.
The company reportedly provided materials on how to recruit the student, follow up with them and even meet with potential students off the clock for coffee. The plaintiffs allege this additional work adds up to working for less than minimum wage. They also allege that there were here were enrollment goals for the number of students recruited and how often they pitched the trainings. While the company disputes the claim, payment and advancement were based on their success in performing these activities.
Bad karma or good business?
Corporate sales goals aside, many of these practices used by CorePower are common in the yoga community. However, businesses cannot accept free labor even if it is in the spirit of volunteerism or the yogic teaching of karma. The earlier cases have prompted rulings here in California and at the federal level where these labor practices violate both FLSA and California law for minimum wage violations.
It remains to be seen how CorePower’s fourth suit will be resolved, and there could be others filed by students, teachers or employees at other yoga studios. Those interested in discussing the labor practices of their yoga studio would be wise to speak with a knowledgeable employment law attorney with experience here in California.