A Michigan appeals court issued a transphobic ruling for an ejected member of a Planet Fitness gym who sued in 2015 after her membership was revoked because she complained about a transgender woman (whom she described as a “man”) in the locker room. The ruling calls transgender women “men who identify as women.”
After Cormier complained to local staff in Michigan and escalated her concerns with corporate offices, Planet Fitness enacted its “Judgement Free Zone” policy and cancelled Cormier’s membership.
A press release detailing the lawsuit read in part:
“Ms. Cormier was wrongfully denied the benefits of her contract with Planet Fitness and wrongfully denied the use of the public accommodations at Defendant’s gym because she objected to Defendant’s unknown policy.
“Mrs. Cormier has filed this lawsuit to protect Michigan women and children and to hold Planet Fitness accountable for its irresponsible policy and actions. This case further illustrates the potential harm caused by adding the proposed new categories of sexual orientation/gender identity to the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.”
Elliott-Larsen prohibits discrimination based on race, age, sex, religion and more, but does not offer protections based on sexual orientation.
Cormier’s complaint listed the alleged damages she suffered as “loss of use of gym facilities,” “fear about using the gym facilities,” “embarrassment and humiliation,” “severe emotional distress” and “damage to reputation.”
It claimed Cormier’s rights were violated in seven counts including breach of contract, an exemplary damages claim, invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress and three counts of sexual harassment under Elliott-Larsen.
According to the summons and complaint, she suffered “aggravation, annoyance, discomfort, disgrace, feelings of oppression, humiliation, inconvenience, indignation, insult, mental anxiety, mental suffering, mortification, outrage, scorn, shame, sorrow, vexation, and worry.”
A Michigan lower court ruled against her and last year, a state court of appeals agreed that she suffered no intrusion of privacy.
But in April, the Michigan Supreme Court revived the case and sent it back to the appellate court to examine a legal question it hadn’t initially considered. And this time, the panel found that Planet Fitness violated its own contract with Cormier, but the ruling requires a foundation of transphobia.
Cormier alleged that Planet Fitness misrepresented the nature of its contract when it said that she would have access to a private women’s locker room but did not disclose that so, too, would “men who self-identity as women.” (The court conspicuously refuses to use the word “transgender” and repeatedly refers to transgender women with this phrase.) This inclusive policy would have affected her decision to purchase a membership and thus is relevant to her claim that Planet Fitness engaged in deceptive business practices.
“Plaintiff’s actions indicate that she strongly preferred a locker room and a restroom in which individuals who are assigned biologically male are not present,” the court wrote, “and it is thus reasonable to infer that defendants’ failure to inform plaintiff of the unwritten policy affected her decision to join the gym.”
The decision says that Cormier has a right to sue and sends it back to a lower court.