Providence gym closes; employee, member complaints mount

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A Providence gym that faced multiple complaints from former members and employees has closed, and Target 12 has learned new complaints against the gym and its owners are mounting.

A sign on the door of the Synrgy Health and Fitness reads, “We apologize for the inconvenience but unfortunately Synrgy Health and Fitness will be permanently closed as of today, Friday, Oct. 13 at 12:30 p.m. We sincerely thank you for your loyal years with us.”

Kim Viafara found out she lost her part time job at Synrgy via text message. She had worked there for about a month and a half, and she says her most recent paycheck bounced.

“It was a check for $128.26,” Viafara told Target 12. “I can’t just be working to not make money.”

Target 12 first reported on wage complaints at Synrgy Health and Fitness in August 2016.

“It was consistent, checks bouncing, checks not being able to be cashed,” former employee, Steve Tripp told Target 12.

Several employees filed complaints with the state which were eventually resolved through the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training. But according to court documents obtained by Target 12, two former employees filed a federal class action lawsuit against the gym and its owners, Michael Owen Jr. and Deborah Owen.

Marcianne Andreozzi and Steven Tripp claim Synrgy violated the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Rhode Island Minimum Wage Act, according to the lawsuit.

Synrgy filed a counterclaim, alleging that Tripp “unlawfully interfered” with Synrgy’s clients and lured members away to a new gym that Tripp owns.

Both sides have been ordered into mediation.

Viafara said she hopes to avoid court.

“I just want what I deserve, what I earned,” she said.

Amy Kempe, a spokesperson for the R.I. Attorney General, said there are 17 open consumer complaints against Synrgy Health and Fitness.

Last year, the Rhode Island Attorney General’s office served the Michael Owen with a civil investigative demand, meaning he had to show up at AG Kilmartin’s office and give testimony about 14 different consumer complaints.

Those complaints were successfully resolved, according to Kempe.

Susan Campbell (scampbell@wpri.com) is the Call 12 for Action and Target 12 consumer investigator for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.