Michigan court sides with woman who sued Planet Fitness over ‘judgement-free zone’ policy for trans members

A Michigan appeals court has ruled in the case of a woman who sued the Planet Fitness gym chain over their “judgement-free zone” policy for trans members, sending the case back to a lower court.

The ruling, which was reported in the Detroit Free Press on Friday, said that the gym should have notified the woman of their “unwritten policy whereby an individual may use whichever locker room or restroom corresponds with the gender with which that individual self-identifies.”

Essentially, the court decided that the woman was right in expecting that locker room and bathroom facilities would divide men and women on the basis of their sex at birth rather than their authentic self and that the gym should have made its self-identification policy more explicit in their membership contract.

The Planet Fitness logo is seen at a gym in the Columbia Mall on July 24, 2017 in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania (Don Emmert/AFP/Getty)

As Think Progress noted, the text of the ruling uses wording to describe trans individuals that could be described as transphobic. There is only mention of the word “transgender” which is then defined as a “man who identified as a woman,” while there is no use of the term “trans women,” who are instead described as “assigned” male or men.

The case refers to events from 2015 when the woman, Yvette Cormier, sued Planet Fitness for $25,000 after she was banned from the premises under the gym’s “no judgement” policy.

Cormier said she had complained about finding a trans woman in the female locker room and was only then informed of the gym’s self-identification policy. She kept going to the gym but “warned other women about the policy and to be careful when using the women’s facilities,” which prompted Planet Fitness to ban her because she violated the gym’s “judgement-free zone.”

The gym said at the time: “Our gender identity non-discrimination policy states that members and guests may use all gym facilities based on their sincere self-reported gender identity.

“In expressing her concerns about the policy, the member in question exhibited behaviour that club management deemed inappropriate and disruptive to other members, which is a violation of the membership agreement and as a result her membership was cancelled.”

After a lower court dismissed the lawsuit in 2016, Cormier brought the complaint to the Michigan Supreme Court, which revived the case that will now be sent back to a lower court.

The slogan “You belong” is seen at a Planet Fitness gym on November 7, 2016 in Pasadena, California. (Tommaso Boddi/Getty for Planet Fitness)

The ruling has caused concern among the trans community. “US trans women are so f***ed. This ruling has actual malice,” wrote reporter Katelyn Burns, sharing a news item about the case on Twitter. “This stuff would make me flee the country more than passport f***ery,” she added.

“Note to Michigan Appellate Court: Transgender Women are Women. I worry that this case/ruling will be used against us in other states. These are definitely scary times for our community,” another social media user commented.