Ruling Affirmed in Favor of Planet Fitness in Transgender Locker Room Lawsuit

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(Photo courtesy Planet Fitness.) Planet Fitness allows members and guests to use the locker room that matches their identity, as part of its broader “no-judgment" policy.

The State of Michigan Court of Appeals has rejected a Michigan woman’s claims that Planet Fitness’ transgender-inclusive locker room policies violated her membership rights. The initial lawsuit had been dismissed in 2015, but the plaintiff had appealed. 

The appeals court on June 1 ruled in favor of corporate Planet Fitness, Newington, New Hampshire, and its franchisee in Midland, Michigan, where Yvette Cormier claimed her privacy and well-being were endangered in February 2015 after she encountered a person who she thought was a man in the women's locker room. The person was in fact a transgender woman.

Planet Fitness allows members and guests to use the locker room that matches their identity, as part of its broader “no-judgment" policy.

 Cormier claimed that the encounter constituted sexual harassment, but the court rejected that claim and refused to grant requested monetary damages.

The ruling states: “Plaintiff’s allegations that defendants’ policy is extreme and outrageous … are insufficient to state a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. … Regardless of whether an average member of the community may find the policy outrageous, the fact is that plaintiff did not suffer severe emotional distress as a matter of law. One encounter with a biological male in a women’s locker room, both persons clothed, does not constitute ‘distress . . . so severe that no reasonable man could be expected to endure it.’”

The court's unanimous 3-0 ruling also determined Planet Fitness Midland justifiably terminated Cormier’s membership in March 2015. This was after Cormier had repeatedly returned to the gym after the purported incident to warn other women of the club's policy, even after management had allegedly asked her to stop.

In their July 2016 filing, Cormier's attorneys (Kallman Legal Group) challenged Planet Fitness' company slogan, which describes its clubs as "judgement-free zones."

"The heart of the problem with the Circuit Court’s reasoning is that it re-characterized a meaningless marketing slogan as a clear disclosure of an egregious privacy-invading policy," the filing said. The attorneys further claimed that women's locker rooms are private places to be used only by women, per American traditions.

The appeals court last week rejected this notion, citing Cormier's signed membership agreement contract.

"She 'agree[d] to comply with Planet Fitness’ membership policies and club rules that may be communicated to me from time to time either in writing, through club signage or verbally,'" the ruling said. "The contract further provided that 'Planet Fitness may, in its sole discretion modify the policies and any club rule without notice at any time' and 'Planet Fitness reserves the right to refund the prorated cost of unused services and terminate [any] membership immediately for violation of any membership policy or club rule.'"

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