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The Case That Could Threaten NYC's Indie Yoga Studios

Photo: <a href="http://instagram.com/p/qoy3SMS_jz/?modal=true">@yogavidanyc</a>/Instagram
Photo: @yogavidanyc/Instagram

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Should yoga teachers be considered freelancers or full-time employees? The answer, which is currently being debated in New York State court, could have serious consequences for NYC's small independent studios. Mike Patton, owner of Yoga Vida, a popular mini-chain with Union Square and Noho locations, is waiting to find out whether the appeal board will grant him a full hearing or issue a written decision—though he'd prefer the former.

"What we're hoping for is an opportunity to have a conversation with a judge or court to explain how the industry operates," Patton told Well+Good.

To determine employee status, state auditors examine whether or not a company exercises "control" over their workers. And most freelance yoga teachers do relinquish a bit of control to their employers—they don't supply their own tools, they're required to attend meetings and teach a certain style of yoga, and studio owners, not teachers, are usually responsible for the safety of clients.

But if yoga studios considered their teachers full-time employees (most don't), the price of health benefits, unemployment insurance and worker's compensation would force them to find other means of maintaining costs.

One studio owner mentioned raising class prices by 10 to 15 percent—which doesn't seem like a steep hike if it ensures that your instructor can seek medical attention if she dislocates her shoulder during crow pose. But for every indie studio planning to grant teachers employee status—if that's how the ruling goes—there's another looking to make staff cuts. And with more independent studios being threatened by boutique fitness chains, the question of how studio owners will choose to compensate their teachers is more crucial than ever.

· The Battle That Could Put Yoga Studios Out of Business [Well+Good]
· Boutique Fitness Studios Are Killing Indie Gyms in NYC [Racked NY]
· Feel the Burn [Racked NY]