Blog Post #33: Planet Fitness’s Judgment-Free Zone Includes LGBT Protections in the Locker Room

By Isabel Gomez

Planet Fitness prides itself on being a judgment-free gym where members can workout free from intimidation and ridicule by other members.[1] The judgment-free zone extends far beyond the treadmill and outside someone’s fitness ability.[2] Notably, Planet Fitness takes LGBTQ protection and respect one step further with its gender identity non-discrimination policy that allows members to choose the locker room that corresponds with their gender identity.[3] Planet Fitness took its stand for LGBTQ rights when the gym relinquished the membership of a member for inappropriately complaining about a transgender woman in the female locker room.[4]

Planet Fitness strives to provide an environment where anyone andeveryone can feel accepted and respected.[5] However, one member, Yvette Cormier, did not get the memo. In February 2015, Cormier brought it to the attention of Planet Fitness staff that a transgender woman was in the female locker room and it “freaked [her] out because, why is a man in [the female locker room].”[6] Cormier further claimed that someone should have notified her of the gender identity non-discrimination policy when she signed up.[7] However, a staff member informed Cormier of the gender identity non-discrimination policy and that because the other woman identified herself as such, no action would be taken against her for using the female locker room.[8] Unsatisfied with this response, Cormier took matters into her own hands.[9]

For the days following Cormier’s complaint, Cormier “warned” other female members “there’s a man they allow in this locker room.”[10]Cormier further added that the gym does not notify its members upon sign up of its gender identity non-discrimination policy when it should.[11] However, much to Cormier’s dismay, Planet Fitness canceled her membership after four days of Cormier’s disruptive behavior.[12]

Fueled by fear and misinformation, Cormier argued that that the presence of a transgender woman in the female locker room threatened Cormier’s safety.[13] Sadly, Cormier’s was backed up by Republican Gary Glenn, Representative for the city of Midland, Michigan (where the Planet Fitness is located).[14] Glenn responded to Cormier’s concerns and stated that Planet Fitness’s policy violates women’s privacy, comfort, and peace of mind, and Planet Fitness should notify its female members of the gym’s policy regarding transgender members.[15] However, the safety at risk in such a situation is the safety of the transgender individual not that of the misinformed member.[16] As Jay Kaplan, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan’s LGBT Project stated, the safety of a transgender woman would be at a higher risk if she had to use the men’s locker room.[17]

Planet Fitness’s gender identity non-discrimination policy exemplifies a policy protecting LGBTQ people that should be adopted by more businesses. Notwithstanding Cormier’s lawsuit seeking more than $25,000 in damages, Planet Finesses received positive responses for its progressive policy and cancelation of Cormier’s membership.[18] The Michigan-based LGBT advocacy group has even set up a thank you page where anyone can applaud Planet Fitness for standing up for gender identity non-discrimination and rescinding Cormier’s membership.[19]

[1] Planet Fitness Mission Statement, Planet Fitness,http://www.planetfitness.com/mission-statement (last visited Apr. 4, 2015).

[2] See generally id.

[3] Mitch Kellaway, Michigan’s Planet Fitness ‘Controversy’ Echoes National Debate on Trans Access, Advocate, Mar. 9, 2015, 6:08 PM),http://www.advocate.com/politics/transgender/2015/03/09/michigans-planet-fitness-controversy-echoes-national-debate-trans-ac.

[4] Emanuella Grinberg, Planet Fitness Revokes Woman’s Membership After Transgender Complaint, CNN (Mar. 9, 2015, 5:50 PM),http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/07/living/feat-planet-fitness-transgender-member/.

[5] Planet Fitness Mission Statement, Planet Fitness,http://www.planetfitness.com/mission-statement (last visited Apr. 4, 2015).

[6] Mark Tower, Planet Fitness Transgender-Friendly Policy ‘Threatens Women’s Safety,’ Midland Lawmaker Says, mLIVE (Mar. 9, 2015, 6:20 AM)http://www.mlive.com/news/saginaw/index.ssf/2015/03/midland_lawmaker_planet_fitnes.html.

[7] Kellaway, supra note 3.

[8] See Grinberg, supra note 4.

[9] See id.

[10] Id.see also Tower, supra note 6 (stating that Planet Fitness Management found Cormier’s actions inappropriate and disruptive to other members).

[11] Grinberg, supra note 4.

[12] Id.

[13] See Jessica Shepherd, Transgender Advocate Says Planet Fitness Locker Room Controversy is a Matter of Privacy, Safety, mLIVE (Mar. 7, 2015, 12:00 PM),http://www.mlive.com/news/saginaw/index.ssf/2015/03/local_transgender_advocate_rea.html.

[14] See Tower, supra note 6.

[15] Id.

[16] See generally id.

[17] Id.

[18] Beth Dalbey, Lawsuit: Planet Fitness Should Discriminate Against Transgendered Woman, Novi Patch (Mar. 27, 2015)http://patch.com/michigan/novi/lawsuit-planet-fitness-should-discriminate-against-transgendered-woman-0.

[19] Equality Michigan, Pat On The Back For You Planet Fitness!http://action.equalitymi.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=1563&track=eqmius (last visited Apr. 4, 2015) (receiving over 2,000 signatures).