Michigan Court Grants Fitness Facility Summary Judgment In Suit Filed By Member Disturbed By Policy Allowing Transgender Individuals To Use Locker Room Of Choice

On Jan. 4, 2016, Judge Michael J. Beale of the 42nd Circuit Court for Midland County, Michigan, granted summary judgment to the franchisor and a franchisee of the Planet Fitness exercise facility chain in a suit filed by a former member regarding Planet Fitness’ locker room policies. Although the court stated its decision was not intended to determine whether transgender persons had any protected rights for use of a locker room facility, Judge Beale’s decision indicated the defendants acted well within their rights in instituting and enforcing a policy allowing transgender individuals to use the dressing room of their choice and in terminating the membership of a member who would not accept the policy.

PT Fitness – Midland, LLC was the franchisee and owner of a Planet Fitness facility in Midland, Michigan. On Feb. 28, 2015, member Yvette M. Cormier entered the women's locker room and saw what she described as a "large, tall man" in the common area of the locker room. The person Cormier saw was Carlotta Sklodowska, a transgender individual at the facility as the guest of a member. Cormier went to the front desk and told them there was a man in the locker room. She was notified by a staff member that company policy allowed individuals to use the locker room for the gender with which they self-identified. Cormier left and called Planet Fitness' corporate office, who confirmed that the company’s judgment-free zone policy allowed transgender individuals to use the locker room for the gender with which they self-identified. Over the next several days, Cormier returned to the Midland facility and warned other women that men were allowed to use the women’s locker room and they should be careful. On March 4, 2015, PLA-FIT and PT Fitness contacted Cormier and asked her to stop warning other members. Cormier was told if she could not accept Planet Fitness' policy, her membership would be terminated. Cormier refused to accept the policy, and her membership was terminated on March 4, 2015.

On March 13, 2015, Cormier filed suit against PT Fitness – Midland and franchisor PLA-FIT Franchise, LLC in the 42nd Circuit Court for Midland County, Michigan. Cormier asserted claims of invasion of privacy, hostile environment sexual harassment and quid pro quo sexual harassment and retaliation in violation of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA), MCLS § 37.2101 et seq., breach of contract, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and violation of the Michigan Consumer Protection Act (MCPA), MCLS § 445.901. The defendants filed motions for summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(8), arguing Cormier had failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.

In his order granting the motion for summary disposition, Judge Beale found Cormier had failed to present evidence sufficient to support any of her claims. Judge Beale also rejected several of Cormier’s claims because she failed to assert that an injury had actually occurred, only that there was a potential for such an injury at a future time. As to the invasion of privacy claim, Judge Beale found a locker room's common area was not a place in which a reasonable person would expect to be in solitude or secluded, and Cormier may have reasonably expected only women would be in the women's locker room but could no longer reasonably expect only women would use the locker room after being told about the judgment-free policy. Judge Beale also found there was no intrusion to support an invasion of privacy claim because Cormier did not change in the locker room and was not seen in any state of undress. 

Judge Beale found Cormier failed to demonstrate she was subjected to unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or conduct or communication of a sexual nature to support her sexual harassment claims. Judge Beale held Cormier could not support her retaliation claim because the defendants did not violate the ELCRA by implementing the judgment-free policy and could not have improperly retaliated against Cormier in violation of the ELCRA. Judge Beale found the defendants acted within their contractual rights in terminating Cormier's membership and Cormier had failed to allege any specific acts perpetrated that caused her emotional distress. Finally, Judge Beale found Cormier's complaint failed to state a prima facie case under the MCPA because it failed to allege the defendants made a material misrepresentation or omission intending Cormier would act upon it, or that Cormier acted on any misrepresentation or omission.

Lexis Advance subscribers can access the full summary, including counsel information, at this link: Yvette M. Cormier v. PT Fitness - Midland, LLC, a Michigan Limited Liability Company; PLA-FIT Franchise, LLC, a New Hampshire Limited Liability Company; Jointly and Severally; 2016 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 262 

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