Photo: Dwight Burdette, via Wikimedia.
The Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled that a woman who claimed her privacy had been violated by being forced to share a communal locker room with a transgender woman was not sexually harassed and did not suffer emotional distress from the incident.
The lawsuit stems from an incident where Yvette Cormier, a customer of Planet Fitness, in Midland, Mich., discovered that she was sharing a locker room with a transgender woman. Based on her personal beliefs that the person was a “man,” she complained to the front desk, then management, and eventually to the company’s corporate headquarters, reports Law Newz.
But Planet Fitness told Cormier that its policy is to allow transgender clients to use the locker room corresponding to their gender identity, even if it does not match their birth certificate.
Cormier was outraged, and proceeded to go back to the club on multiple occasions, in an effort warn other women of the pro-transgender policy. When she wouldn’t stop talking about it with other customers, even after being asked to by management, the gym terminated her membership, claiming she was violating their “no judgment” policy.
Cormier subsequently sued, alleging that the club’s policy of allowing transgender members to use the locker rooms consistent with her gender identity violates her privacy, constitutes sexual harassment, and subjected her to emotional distress. She also claimed that Planet Fitness’ decision to terminate her contract was a form of retaliation, “gender-based discrimination,” and violated Michigan’s Consumer Protection Act.
But in a unanimous 3-0 decision, the court said it found no evidence of sexual harassment, or that Cormier suffered emotional distress because of Planet Fitness’ policy. It also found that the club was within its rights to terminate Cormier’s membership after she created a scene by trying to warn other women of the presence of a transgender woman in the locker room.
In its opinion upholding a lower court’s finding, the court noted that both Cormier and the transgender woman had been wearing clothes when they were in the locker room together, and that the transgender woman made no sexual advances toward Cormier.
“[Michigan’s civil rights act] does not define sexual harassment as being subjected to an opportunity for a person to engage in verbal or physical conduct or communication of a sexual nature,” the judges opined. “Rather the CRA requires that the sexual conduct or communication substantially interfered with the plaintiff’s utilization of public accommodations. It follows that plaintiff must have actually experienced the conduct or communication she complains of.”
The court also noted that there was little evidence to support Cormier’s claim of emotional distress.
“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,” the opinion reads.
“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.’ Indeed, the plaintiff continued to visit the gym and would thoroughly check the women’s locker room for biological males apparently ready to experience such an encounter again.”
Cormier’s attorney, David Kallman, has told Law Newz that he plans to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.