It’s unfortunately not unusual to judge and be judged at the gym. But the case of 30-year-old Ketan Aggarwal in London takes things to a whole new, unacceptable level. Aggarwal, an Indian-origin autistic man, has successfully sued a British health club chain for disability discrimination, representing himself in court.
Aggarwal singlehandedly beat the multi-million pound company that’s partly owned by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group. In May 2015, Aggarwal was attending a spin class Virgin Active Stockley Park when he agreed with a fellow cyclist that the music was too slow, which prompted the instructor to yell “don’t tell me how to do my job”.
This wasn’t all. When the class ended, the instructor shouted at him again, calling him “stupid” on the mic, in front of 30-odd people, according to a Daily Mail report. Aggarwal complained, but to little avail – which is when he decided to take them to court.
He scoured the library and online articles on the subject of discrimination and researched previous cases to prepare. Eventually, he represented himself in the case as a victim of disability harassment – and won.
“He called me stupid twice. Calling someone with a mental disability ‘stupid’ is similar to mocking a guy in a wheelchair. If I was that stupid I wouldn’t have been able to successfully pursue the claim against a solicitor of a billion pound company. It was two years coming and it was hard work. I’m not a legal professional and I had to do a huge amount of paperwork. I had to live in the library, picking up law from the books, and getting templates for submitting paperwork from the internet. It was worth it though. It wasn’t about the money, it was about the principal,” Aggarwal told ITV in an interview.
After receiving his legal paperwork, the club apparently dismissed the instructor and offered him a £94 compensation, which he refused. The court ordered Virgin Active to pay Aggarwal costs and compensation of £190 and £1,200, respectively, issue a written apology as well as look into training staff on equality.