Court rules against woman who complained about transgender person in Planet Fitness locker room

Court rules against woman who complained about transgender person in Planet Fitness locker room
A Michigan court ruled against a woman who sued Planet Fitness last year after she saw a transgender person utilizing the women’s locker room. (2016 file photo/Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for Planet Fitness)

A Michigan judge ruled last week against a plaintiff who complained about a transgender person using Planet Fitness’ women’s locker room.

In January 2015, Yvette Cormier joined a Planet Fitness in Midland, Michigan, but her time at the gym was short-lived, according to her complaint. About a month after she joined, Cormier saw a transgender woman in the ladies’ locker room.

“I was stunned and shocked,” she said at the time. “He looked like a man. He did not look like a woman.”

Cormier then complained to the front desk management at the Midland Planet Fitness and later to the corporate headquarters, but she didn’t get the response she was hoping for. Planet Fitness told the frustrated customer that the gym embraces whatever sex with which a person identifies — even if it does not match their biological sex on their birth certificate.

The policy was so bewildering to Cormier that she proceeded to let other women know about the encounter and the gym’s response. Ultimately, the facility’s leadership asked Cormier to stop talking about it with other customers. When she didn’t, they terminated her membership in March 2015 because she was violating Planet Fitness’ signature “no judgment” mantra.

“This is very unprofessional,” she said. “This is very scary.”

Planet Fitness later released a statement of its own, saying the brand is “committed to creating a non-intimidating, welcoming environment for our members.”

The statement continued:

Our gender identity non-discrimination policy states that members and guests may use all gym facilities based on their sincere self-reported gender identity.

The manner in which this member expressed her concerns about the policy exhibited behavior that management at the Midland club deemed inappropriate and disruptive to other members, which is a violation of the membership agreement and as a result her membership was cancelled.

That “one-sided” response from the gym did nothing to ease Cormier’s frustrations, so she sued Planet Fitness, claiming invasion of privacy, sexual harassment under the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, retaliation, gender-based discrimination, breach of contract, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and violation of the Michigan Consumer Protection Act.

But in the end, Cormier’s case wasn’t strong enough to convince the Michigan Court of Appeals, which on Thursday upheld a lower court ruling against the ex-Planet Fitness member’s lawsuit.

The court’s opinion pointed out that the transgender person made no direct sexual advances toward Cormier and remained clothed the entire time the two individuals were in the locker room.

“According to plaintiff, because of  policy, the transgender man had the opportunity to undress in front of her and to see her undress which, she maintains, is conduct or communication of a sexual nature,” the opinion stated.

But the law, the opinion continued, “does not define sexual harassment as being subjected to an opportunity for a person to engage in verbal or physical conduct or communication of a sexual nature.”

“Rather,” the court decided, “the requires that the sexual conduct or communication substantially interfered with the plaintiff’s utilization of public accommodations.”

Additionally, the court determined there was no problem with Planet Fitness dissolving Cormier’s membership because it was only terminated after they asked her to stop warning women about transgender people using the locker room.

Regardless of Cormier’s opinion on transgender issues, the judges opined, she “did not suffer severe emotional distress as a matter of law.”

Attorney David Kallman, who is representing Cormier, told Law Newz that they plan to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

This latest case comes on the heels of the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services telling foster parents and social workers that they must be “LGBTQ-affirming” with at-risk youth if they want to continue working with the agency.

Similarly, Ontario, Canada, just passed a law allowing the government to intervene if parents of children experiencing gender dysphoria don’t accept whatever “gender expression” their kids choose to embrace.

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