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Lawsuit Involving Transgender Locker Room Policy Can Go to Trial

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Paul R. Bedard, EsquirePaul R. Bedard, Esquire

The lawsuit against Planet Fitness involving their transgender locker room policy has been given the green light to go to trial. As part of what has been a lengthy matter of litigation spanning all levels of Michigan's courts, Planet Fitness went to the Michigan Supreme Court and applied for leave to appeal from the July of 2018 Court of Appeals Order allowing the case to be tried. On April 2nd, Michigan's highest court declared that it would not intervene. The decision of the Court of Appeals will stand.

The lawsuit against Planet Fitness has raised significant legal arguments and continues to be a case worthy of following. As I've previously reported, the lawsuit at issue did not originate from a transgender person's allegation of a violation of rights. Rather, the suit was filed by a member who disagreed with Planet Fitness' transgender-friendly policy.

Planet Fitness' transgender locker policy allows transgender individuals to use the locker room that corresponds with their gender identity. Yvette Cormier, the Plaintiff Member of Planet Fitness, complained to Planet Fitness about the locker room policy after discovering a transgender woman in the women's locker room. Cormier communicated the policy to other female members, allegedly after Planet Fitness had asked her to stop doing as such. Ultimately, Planet Fitness terminated Cormier's membership and declared her behavior to be disruptive to other members and in violation of the membership agreement.

Cormier filed suit, alleging invasion of privacy, breach of contract, intentional infliction of emotional distress and violations of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act and the Michigan Consumer Protection Act (MCPA). In response to Cormier's lawsuit, Planet Fitness argued that they, "enacted an inclusive policy that recognizes the extraordinary difficulties that transgender individuals face with regard to public restroom and locker room usage." The trial court ruled in favor of Planet Fitness, and Cormier's lawsuit was dismissed. In its ruling, the trial court stated that it was not called upon to determine whether transgender people have any protected rights for the use of a locker room facility. The issue was whether the plaintiff had stated any valid cause of action against a business allowing transgender people to use the locker room that corresponds with their gender identity. Planet Fitness' policy was deemed non-discriminatory since there was no disparate treatment of men and women by allowing biological males who identify as females to use the women's locker room and by allowing biological females who identify as males to use the men's locker room.

Cormier appealed the trial court's decision. In June of 2017, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's ruling. However, Cormier pressed on and appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court. In April of 2018, the Michigan Supreme court held that the Court of Appeals had erred when it failed to consider Cormier's claims under the MCPA. The case was affirmed in most respects but was remanded to the Court of Appeals to address the MCPA claim.

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