5 Basic Legal Agreements Every Fitness Instructor Needs
Cory Sterling, founder of leading legal consulting firm Conscious Counsel, set out on a mission to reshape the legal service industry from it’s overwhelming and intimidating reputation to an informed, approachable and fun practice. Back when he began advising, he found a need within the health & wellness industry for guidance in writing legal documents and a continued legal education during times of change.
Conscious Counsel specializes in helping fitness professionals understand the legal implications of your practice in a smart and easy way. It can seem daunting and uninspiring but Cory has broken down the 5 key legal agreements that are a necessity to being a successful and legally covered as a fitness pro.
The 5 Basic Legal Agreements:
Protect your business and assets by having clients sign away legal rights to hold you responsible for training together. Essentially, as a customer they are waiving their rights to bring any legal action against the company.
Within a Liability Waiver there are 3 key components:
- A list of activities. This includes any physical actions you may be doing during the class.
- A list of risks. Detail the risks that are associated with training and the class.
- A list outcomes of the risks
Then someone has to understanding the activities, the risks, and the outcomes of those risks, must agree to voluntarily participate. The participant also needs to give an affirmation of health that understanding all of the activities and risks, they are healthy enough to participate. Finally, they have to release you of liability.
2. SERVICE AGREEMENT
Communicate expectations with your clients openly and honestly, define the scope of your services and address things like how the services will be provided (online vs in-person), cost, cancellations, refunds, etc. usually held within the liability agreement. Essentially a service agreement is the relationship you have with someone purchasing your services.
3. SOCIAL MEDIA DISCLAIMER
Link all your social media profiles to a properly worded disclaimer which lets people know your qualifications and explains people must practice at their own risk. Also, it is necessary to be transparent about your authentic qualifications and also what you may not be qualified for. The general rule is to be as open and honest as possible. (amongst many other things…).
A legal requirement if you collect anyone’s personal information as per federal and state/provincial laws. Examples are names, emails, date of birth, interests, phone number, etc.
5. TERMS OF SERVICE + DISCLAIMER
The rules for people interacting with your website, online products, and any purchases offered through your site. The disclaimer allows you to list your qualifications, what your qualifications are not and include specific language around what you do and do not offer (i.e.: make no guarantees for certain results, not offering medical services, etc.). You will need a terms of service for processes such as refunds, returns, cancellations, exchanges, copyright infringement, recommendations.
Frequently Asked Questions:
ARE ONLINE FORMS/WAIVER TOOLS LEGALLY BINDING?
Yes, these are legally binding but with some contingencies. You must make sure there is a provision within your document that implicitly states that to whomever signs the document they understand the document will be signed electronically.
You must have all the correct content, shown that the signee has acknowledged that they have read and understand the agreement, have them also acknowledged the document will be electronically signed, and finally, have the electronically signed legal document attached.
HOW DO YOU GET SOMEONE TO SIGN A WAIVER USING ZOOM (OR OTHER PLATFORM)?
There are a few different apps you can use in which you create a waiting room where people have to sign a waiver before they are allowed to access your zoom meetings/sessions. It's like having your class attendees sign in at the front desk before they enter the gym.
Or if it’s feasible, you can do this check in process manually. It will be very important that you do not allow anyone who has not previously signed a liability waiver.
AS AN INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR, IF I’VE ADDED A BUSINESS TO MY INSURANCE POLICY, SHOULD I ALSO ADD THEM ONTO MY WAIVER OF LIABILITY AS THE FACILITY?
Yes, to cover all bases add them to your waiver of liability.
how should a waiver be adjusted for training out of the gym?
When it comes to teaching anywhere other than your gym, you must include this information on your Liability Waiver.
An updated list of activities, list of risks, and list of outcomes from those risks will be required for good practices.
DOES THE CREATION OF AN LLC SHIELD MY PERSONAL ASSETS IF I AM THE ONLY ONE IN MY FITNEss BUSINESS?
Waivers of liability are so important because your assets are available to satisfy the damages you may owe at law. When you create a separate legal entity like an LLC or an or an ESCORP or you in INC. the extent of your vulnerability (or the extent of the assets) that you will owe only belong to the party that facilitated that particular service. For example, it is possible for the Fitness Gym Inc. to have $3,000 in the bank and if its found someone was hurt and you have to owe that particular amount of money then the extent that you will have to pay will only be those $3,000.
IF I AM A PRIVATE FITNESS INSTRUCTOR OPERATING OUT OF A FITNESS STUDIO AS AN INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR, DO I NEED A WAIVER OF LIABILITY IN ADDITION TO THE ONE THE GYM HAS?
Technically all employees would be covered by their employer with a legal concept called “vicarious responsibility”. However it can become hard to prove that the employer is responsible for an independent contractor.
When hired as independent contractor, do you due diligence and first, ensure they include you on their waiver of liability and second, make sure the waiver is up to industry standards. If you do not trust the company to do these two things properly, you can use your own waiver of liability.
DO YOU NEED A WAIVER OF LIABILITY FOR RECORDED ONLINE CLASSES, SUCH AS ON YOUTUBE?
The short answer is no, however in these instances, you will need some sort of social media disclaimer. The reason you are not able to use a waiver of liability is because you have no control over the end user. So in order to protect your company adding a disclaimer which states the user is practicing at their own risk is important.
There are a few ways in which you can add the disclaimer to your content. In regards to Youtube, you can very easily add fixed text to the caption section of the video or have a dedicated few seconds in the beginning of your video to display the disclaimer as text. With social media, such as Instagram or Facebook you can add a social disclaimer to the Terms of Service page with links to all of your social media platforms.