Planet Fitness isn’t violating privacy by welcoming transgender members, Michigan court rules

“The fact is that plaintiff did not suffer severe emotional distress as a matter of law.”

CREDIT: iStockPhoto/Sakkawokkie
CREDIT: iStockPhoto/Sakkawokkie

Two years ago, a Michigan woman by the name of Yvette Cormier made national news when she objected to the transgender-inclusive policies at her local Planet Fitness after she encountered a transgender woman in the locker room. She incessantly warned other women at the gym about the policy, which prompted Planet Fitness to revoke her membership. Cormier sued, and the Michigan Appeals Court has now rejected her claims outright.

In a decision issued last week, the Michigan Appeals Court ruled 3–0 that Cormier had no claim against the Planet Fitness for either its policy or its decision to cancel her membership. She argued that she had been subjected to sexual harassment, invasion of privacy, and breach of contract, but the panel agreed with a lower court’s ruling dismissing her complaint.

In regards to her claim of sexual harassment, the Court found that Cormier “made conclusory statements that she was subjected to conduct and communication of a sexual nature,” but in reality, “she failed to plead factual allegations showing that she was actually subjected to verbal or physical conduct or communication of a sexual nature (i.e., that her rights were violated).” She saw a transgender woman in the locker room, but the woman (who is unfortunately referred to as a “transgender man” in the written decision) didn’t do anything to Cormier that would actually be considered a violation. Indeed, they were both clothed when the interaction Cormier objected to took place.

Likewise, Cormier’s claim that her privacy was violated fell flat. “She has simply not alleged an intrusion of that privacy,” the Court found. Even if another guest had improperly spied on her changing or showering — which she didn’t allege — her claim would be against that individual, not Planet Fitness itself. Furthermore, she continued to use the facilities for some time after learning of the gym’s policies respecting and affirming transgender members. “Even though plaintiff did not agree with the policy, her use of the locker room after her knowledge of the policy constituted consent to any intrusion, defeating her claim of invasion of privacy.”

Perhaps most noteworthy was the Court’s disinterest in Cormier’s claims that she had suffered emotional distress because she had shared a space with a transgender woman. “Transgender rights and policies are polarizing issues and each individual may have a feeling on the issue and on what locker room such individuals should be using,” the Court wrote. “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.”

Cormier could still appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court. She is represented by the Kallman Legal Group, which has a reputation for taking up anti-LGBTQ cases. In 2013, the firm objected to a local township implementing LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections by comparing homosexuality to “extramarital sex, polygamy, pedophilia, serial killer rapists, necrophilia, bestiality, and incest” and claiming that only a “mind-reader” could determine whether a person is transgender to avoid discriminating against them.