Lawsuit Stemming From Transgender Locker Room Policy Revived
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Paul R. Bedard, Esquire
The Michigan Court of Appeals recently ruled that a lawsuit against Planet Fitness will move forward and be sent back to trial court due to the gym's violation of the Michigan Consumer Protection Act (MCPA). Although the lawsuit originated from a complaint regarding Planet Fitness' transgender-friendly locker room policy, the Court's analysis of the MCPA provides broader insight into how one court interpreted a consumer protection statute and its applicability to a health club membership agreement.
However, this article gives only a highlighted version of one court's analysis of a Michigan law and is not intended as legal advice. Widely varying state and local laws, and factors that are unique to each situation, prohibit one-size-fits-all takeaways or recommendations. Please consider these comments as merely a guide to help you when you consult your attorney for specific direction.
As I wrote in my March 2016 Club Insider article, Transgender Legal Considerations for Health Club Operators, Yvette Cormier sued Planet Fitness in 2015 over Planet Fitness' transgender-friendly locker room policy. The policy of Planet Fitness is to allow transgender people to use the locker room that corresponds with their gender identity. Upon discovering a transgender woman in the women's locker room, Ms. Cormier complained to Planet Fitness about their policy. Ms. Cormier allegedly went further by sharing the policy and her complaints with other female members. Ultimately, Planet Fitness deemed the member's behavior to be disruptive and terminated her membership agreement.
Ms. Cormier's lawsuit alleged invasion of privacy, breach of contract, intentional infliction of emotional distress and violations of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act and the MCPA. At the trial court level, Planet Fitness argued that the plaintiff had failed to state a valid claim. The trial court ruled in favor of Planet Fitness, and the lawsuit was dismissed. The lawsuit was subsequently appealed, and the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's decision in its entirety on June 1st of 2017.
However, Ms. Cormier took her case to the Michigan Supreme Court, which ruled on April 6th of this year that the Court of Appeals had erred when it declined to consider the plaintiff's MCPA claim. The case was affirmed in most respects but remanded to the Court of Appeals to address the MCPA claim.
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