MIDLAND, Mich. — The Michigan Court of Appeals has unanimously ruled that a woman did not suffer sexual harassment and emotional distress when her local Planet Fitness allowed a man who identifies as a woman to use the women’s locker room.
“Plaintiff’s allegations that defendants’ policy is extreme and outrageous because ‘it would allow men to be present while women are changing, showering, or using the restroom’ and ‘would allow a man to disrobe and be naked with the women who are also using said facilities’ are insufficient to state a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress,” the court wrote on June 1.
“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. 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,” it concluded.
As previously reported, Yvette Cormier, 48, sued Planet Fitness in 2015 after she walked into the Midland women’s’ locker room and was surprised to see a man wearing makeup and a wig.
“I just stopped right there in my tracks,” she told ABC News. “It was a man for sure.”
Cormier then went to the front desk to express concern. She was told that others had complained, but that the facility allows patrons to use the locker room with which they identify.
“That should be something they pointed out when I signed up,” Cormier opined. “If you have male parts you don’t need to be in the women’s locker room. I don’t care what you are; I don’t care if you’re gay, lesbian, transgender or transvestite. I am uncomfortable with you as a male in my locker room, in my restroom.”
She went back to Planet Fitness a few days later, at which time she began to warn other female club members that a man had been present in the women’s locker room.
The next day, the corporate office of Planet Fitness called Cormier and informed her that she had violated their “no judgment” policy and that it had decided to revoke her membership.
After the matter went public, Planet Fitness spokesperson McCall Gosselin outlined in a press release that Cormier’s membership wasn’t canceled simply because she complained, but rather because of the way that she handled the matter.
“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,” she said in a statement.
The man who Cormier had discovered in the locker room later came forward, advising that he isn’t a member, and that he had used the area on a few occasions to hang his coat and purse while he visited with a friend.
Weeks later, Cormier filed suit, citing invasion of privacy, wrongful retaliation, Consumer Protection Act violations and breach of contract.
“Defendant’s decision to institute the policy was extreme and outrageous because it would allow for men to be present while women are changing, showering, or using the restroom,” the legal challenge read. “Further, it would allow a man to disrobe and be naked with the women who are also using said facilities, thus invading Mrs. Cormier’s and other female members’ privacy.”
A trial court dismissed the case in favor of Planet Fitness in January 2016, concluding that Cormier had “failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.”
“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,” wrote Judge Michael Beale.
Cormier appealed, stating that Planet Fitness’ “judgment free” slogan does not clearly indicate to women that they might have to share their facilities with men who identify as women.
“[T]he trial court ruled that Mrs. Cormier should have known that the phrase ‘judgment-free zone’ put her on notice that she had consented to men viewing her as she disrobes and to men showering with her,” the appeal read. “Apparently [according to Beale], Mrs. Cormier should have known that by signing the Planet Fitness membership agreement, … she waived all of her rights and reasonable expectations to be able to use the locker room free from a man watching her.”
“This begs the question, what exactly does Planet Fitness’ ‘judgment-free zone’ mean?” it asked.
However, the Michigan Court of Appeals unanimously upheld Beale’s conclusion this month, finding that the woman did not experience any actual harm because the man never saw her undressed and didn’t make any sexual advances toward her.
“[E]ven assuming plaintiff had a right to keep the exposure of her naked body private from members of the opposite sex in the women’s locker room, she has simply not alleged an intrusion of that privacy,” it wrote. “Again, plaintiff alleged that she left the locker room after encountering ‘a large, tall man’ and then ‘thoroughly check[ed]’ the locker room before using it on subsequent visits.”
“Thus, plaintiff did not undress and shower in the presence of a biological male at defendant Planet-Fitness-Midland’s facilities,” the court opined. “Further, any intrusion would not have been conducted by defendants or their agents, but by other club members and guests.”
Cormier’s attorney, David Kallman, plans to appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court.