A judge dismissed on Jan. 5 the lawsuit against Planet Fitness, Newington, New Hampshire, and a Planet Fitness franchisee related to the company's transgender locker room policy.
The plaintiff plans to appeal, according to her lawyers, Kallman Legal Group.
On Jan 5, Judge Michael J. Beale of the 42nd Circuit Court of the County of Midland dismissed the case, which was filed in March 2015 and amended in June 2015, because he said that Yvette M. Cormier, the plaintiff, did not prove her case in any of the claims she made. Those claims included invasion of privacy, breach of membership contract, violation of Michigan Consumer Protection Act, violation of Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
On Feb. 28, 2015, Cormier, a member of the Planet Fitness in Midland, Michigan, at that time, found a transgender woman, who was a guest at the gym, in the women’s locker room. Planet Fitness' policy permits transgender people to choose the locker room of the gender they identify with. Cormier complained to the company about the transgender person in the locker room and was informed of the policy. Cormier then shared the company's policy with other members, allegedly even after the company asked her to stop, causing the company to revoke her membership.
At the time of the lawsuit, a Planet Fitness spokesperson, McCall Gosselin, shared with Club Industry the reason for Cormier's dismissal: "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 canceled."
In July, Planet Fitness and its franchisee, PF Fitness-Midland LLC, filed to have the lawsuit dismissed.
The judge stated in the dismissal document: "This Court is not called upon to determine whether transgender persons have any protected rights for use of a locker room facility, rather the issue is whether Plaintiff has stated any valid cause of action against a business allowing transgender persons to use the locker room that corresponds with their gender identify."
The judge noted that because Cormier encountered the transgender woman in the common area of a locker room rather than in a stall that can be closed and locked, the common area was "not a place in which a reasonable person would expect to be in solitude or secluded because multiple patrons may use it at the same time."
In addition, the judge noted: "Plaintiff may have reasonably expected only women would be present in the women's locker room, even in the common area; however, she could no longer reasonable expect only women would use the facility after being told about the 'judgment-free zone' policy of Planet Fitness."
The judge also noted that the suit does not allege that the transgender woman saw Cormier in a state of undress because Cormier acknowledges that she left the locker room without undressing. Instead, Cormier's suit only states that Planet Fitness created a policy that could allow for intrusion into her seclusion.
The judge stated that "merely creating a policy which a person may utilize to intrude upon another person's seclusion would be an extension of the tort of right to privacy beyond the parameters which have been adopted by the appellate courts of this state when they created it. Therefore, Plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted…"
Kallman Legal Group, which represents Cormier, stated the following in a release about the dismissal:
"Contrary to the plain language of the preamble of the Elliott-Larsen Act, Judge Beale ruled that a policy alone is insufficient to create a hostile environment. His opinion further ignores the fact that Planet Fitness’ policy allowing the presence of a man in the women’s locker room when women are in various stages of undress is offensive behavior in and of itself. A woman should not have to wait until she is viewed naked by a man, or until worse objectionable behavior occurs, in order to secure legal protection."
Cormier's lawyers said she would file an appeal no later than Jan. 26.
Planet Fitness released this statement to Club Industry about the dismissal: "We are pleased with the court’s decision and look forward to continuing our mission to provide a comfortable, non-intimidating atmosphere for our members."