Chrysa Jonas says she lost her job as a spin instructor because of Instagram posts supporting Palestinians. (Photo by Eddie Woods)

Chrysa Jonas says she lost her job as a spin instructor because of Instagram posts supporting Palestinians. (Photo by Eddie Woods)

Woman says pro-Palestinian posts cost her spin cycle job

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By Nuha Abdessalam

A Palos Hills native says she was let go from a part-time second job as a spin instructor because of her social media posts supporting Palestinians.

Chrysa Jonas had been a spin instructor at Heights Cycle in Palos Heights (and its former incarnation as Revival Cycle) since December of 2020.  She says her private Instagram posts in support of Palestinians led to an uncomfortable direct message from her boss that led to a confusing layoff for Jonas.

Jonas said she received a direct message from her former boss, Megan Wenstrup, owner of the Cycle studio at 224 W. College Drive, concerning an Instagram post on Jonas’s private Instagram account on October 13, almost a week after the conflict between Israel and Hamas began on October 7.

The post that prompted a message from Wenstrup stated:

“If you’ve ever wondered what you’d have done in times of American slavery,

“And how outspoken and how much personal risk and protection you’d have offered during the Holocaust,

“Or how you’d have reacted to the internment camps in America,

“And how deeply and how often you’d have protested for civil rights,

“Take a look at whatever you are doing now for Gaza, and know that it’s exactly what you’d have done in times before.”

Jonas said she shared the post because it reflected her feelings about the fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

After seeing the post, Wenstrup messaged Jonas advising her to be “careful,” labeling the ongoing war topic “touchy.”

Wenstrup said a decline in riders registering for Jonas’s cycling sessions raised concerns that it could escalate as her postings could “turn people off.”

Wenstrup’s message ended by assuring Jonas it was her choice and that she would happily discuss it further with Jonas if she wanted.

Jonas said she was confused and upset. “I was immediately offended. I’m 35 years old and do not need to be told how to speak on my private page.”

Jonas’ Instagram page was and is set to private and was not accessible by the public.

Jonas, troubled by Wenstrup’s message, responded, “I stand up for what I believe in.”

Wenstrup wrote back, “I have a clear understanding of where you stand on this topic. We don’t need to talk about it again.”

Jonas, who has been a firefighter with the Schaumburg Fire Department since 2016, was injured during a training seminar on November 2, resulting in a torn MCL (medial collateral ligament), and had been on leave.

Communicating predominantly through text messages, Wenstrup assured Jonas they would put her spin classes on hold while she was recovering and to not worry about her position. Communication between Jonas and Wenstrup after her injury on November 2 seemed amiable and professional for the first four weeks, but stopped around the first or second week of December.

“I supplied doctor letters on my condition and asked if any other documentation may be needed,” she said. “I was getting fewer and fewer messages towards the end of November and even fewer in December.”

Jonas received her doctor’s clearance earlier this year (January 17) to resume cycling. Eager to share the news, she texted Wenstrup, stating she could come in that evening. She did not hear back.

Jonas texted Wenstrup again, saying, “I can’t shake the feeling that I’m being let go.”

“The next morning, I received a text from Megan stating: Chrysa, things have not gone as anticipated, and at this time, I do not have a time slot for you on the schedule.”

Confused and shocked, Jonas called Wenstrup and left her a voicemail: “I called to talk more about this, but she did not call me back, so I texted, ‘Do I not have a job anymore?’ ”

Fourteen hours later, Jonas received a response via email from Wenstrup stating she had received Jonas’s call, voicemail, and texts. She also said that she did not have a time slot for Jonas on the schedule.

“She did not even have the decency to speak with me when I was reassured of having my job once I got better. Instead, I was let go via email.”

Wenstrup did not return requests for her side of the story, but under Illinois law she could let Jonas go whenever she wanted. Illinois is an “at-will” state, which means an employer can dismiss an employee for any reason and without warning as long as the reason is not illegal.

Jonas still doesn’t know whether she was officially fired, though she is not listed as a staffer on the company’s website and believes she was removed around the time Wenstrup was asked to comment (February 2).

Jonas said, “She has made me feel so uncomfortable, I don’t have any other choice but to leave. This has been a huge loss for me. This was my safe haven. Yes, I’m a firefighter, but being a cycling instructor was an outlet, fun, and creative, creating a community for me.”

She also is not sorry she posted the pro-Palestinian messages.

“I wanted to speak out because people are scared to talk, people are scared to stand up for themselves, and, for whatever reason, there is Palestinian hate. I don’t understand it. I have always been vocal, and I believe many feel the same and are afraid, and that’s not me.”

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