Employees, patrons file complaints against local gym

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Steve Tripp used to be a personal trainer at Synrgy Health and Fitness in Providence.

“A big portion of what we do is to be passionate and upbeat,” explained Tripp.

But Tripp says it was hard to stay positive because his paychecks were bouncing.

“That was consistent, checks bouncing, checks not being able to be cashed,” Tripp said. “Sometimes it would be communicated, ‘don’t cash that check until this day, or there’s no money in there yet.'”

Kyle Rodriguez also used to work at Synrgy. It was his first job.

“The gym itself is pretty great!” said Rodriguez. “The equipment in there is probably the best equipment I’ve ever seen.”

Kyle says he quit after 10 months because he wasn’t getting paid on time. The 18-year-old showed Eyewitness News his bank statements, which reveal six paychecks that bounced. Kyle also claims his former boss, Michael Owen, still owes him a final paycheck.

“He’s not paying his employees the money that they’re owed, and I want to see him held accountable for that,” said Rodriguez. “I want to see him pay us the money that he’s supposed to pay us.”

Ken Cormier, a former personal trainer at Synrgy, shared similar concerns.

“My final paycheck did not clear,” said Cormier. “He said he would pay me in cash before the end of that week, he never did. Then he said he would mail me a check, then he never did.”

We also received complaints from former gym members. Carly Goldstein was double charged for a personal training package. An email chain shows the issue took months to resolve. Then, in April, Carly’s membership was abruptly terminated.

“I still had quite a few sessions scheduled with my personal trainer and they told me they did not want me to complete the sessions,” said Goldstein.

She demanded a refund.

“A few weeks ago, she [Deb Owen of Synrgy] told me she was processing the refund and she said it should take seven to ten business days,” said Goldstein. “I have not heard from her since.”

Carly filed a complaint with the Rhode Island Attorney General’s office and she called Eyewitness News. Just this past weekend, a $650 credit showed up in Goldstein’s account.

We scheduled an on-camera interview with Michael Owen, the owner of Synrgy. When we arrived, Owen had a change of heart. Through his attorney, Owen declined to speak with us on camera, but he did deny the claims.

Owen conceded some paychecks bounced, but told us he covered overdraft fees right away. He also believes some of the former personal trainers are making these claims to hurt his business because they’re starting a gym of their own.

When we asked about former employees’ paychecks, Owen told us he believes everyone has been paid what they are owed, with the exception of Kyle Rodriguez, whose complaint is being handled through the Department of Labor and Training.

On refunds, Owen blames credit card companies and banks for the lengthy process.

The Attorney General’s office and the DLT confirm they’re reviewing several complaints against Synrgy.

If you find yourself in a similar situation and believe your employer owes you money, you can file a complaint with the DLT’s workplace fraud unit. In 2015, investigators handled 501 wage complaints.

Here are links to the complaint forms in English and Spanish.

Read the FAQs in English and Spanish if you have questions about terminations, overtime pay, minimum wage, the types of records that employers must keep, lunch breaks, legal holidays, pay days, pay stubs, vacations, and other workplace issues.

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