During the first year of law school, the importance of language is drilled into every law student. Students read thousands of pages of legal text and legal opinions. Professors teach students not only to read what is written, but also understand what isn’t written.
One of the first lessons in this high level of reading comprehension is identifying and understanding the use of shall and may. When a legal statute says you ”shall” do something, then you don’t have a choice. For example, your traffic laws say you ”Shall” wear your seatbelt when driving. On the other hand, when a statute says you ”May” do something, then you have discretion. If a Court of Law may apply a legal test to a situation, then the Court has the freedom to decide whether it wants to or not.
Why is this important? Because most gym owners don’t go through their day worrying about the distinction of shall versus may. Gym owners say things like, ”You have to give us a 30 day notice to cancel your membership, or you ‘MAY’ be charged for another month.” ”If you sign up for a group class, and you don’t appear, we ‘MAY’ charge you for a no show.” ”We ‘MAY’ provide a refund if you have a legitimate excuse.”
The use of may in legal contracts is not definitive. It allows for discretion on the part of the gym owner. The owner may give a refund or he/she may not. The gym may kick you out of class for showing up late, or it may not. Discretion means everyone is not being given the same predictable treatment. Moreover, a gym’s different treatment for different people will lead to angry customers and lawsuits.
What Language Do You Use?
At Gym Lawyers PLLC, we help gym owners plug legal holes. The use of definitive language is a perfect example of how we do this. There is nothing wrong with having a No Refund policy at your gym (unless your state’s statutes say otherwise). However, your membership agreement must say, ”Clients SHALL not being eligible for a refund.” Or, in relation to employee agreements, ”Employees SHALL receive seven (7) days of vacation per calendar year.” Be clear, be definitive, and make sure everyone is on the same page about what will and will not happen.