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Friday, June 30, 2017

Transgender Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Dismissed

sexual harassment lawsuit
Wow, Planet Fitness really is the "no judgment zone".

In the early winter of 2015, in Midland, MI, two Planet Fitness customers wandered into the women's locker room. One was a woman; the other, a transgender individual -in this case, a man who identified as a woman.

The woman caught on to the fact that a man, albeit one that identified as a woman, was in her presence in the locker room. Neither party was in a state of undress, and no specific sexual or lewd conduct occurred.

She reported the individual to the store manager, claiming violation of her privacy. When Planet Fitness advised the woman of their policy to accommodate transgender customers, she became vocal about the situation, warning other female customers on several occasions.

Her membership was terminated by the corporation.

Eventually, she contacted a lawyer and filed a civil rights lawsuit under Michigan's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. The complaint alleged that the woman was subjected to sexual harassment by operation of the corporate policy allowing customers access to the locker room of their self-identified gender. She also claimed an invasion of privacy and a retaliatory membership termination.

The Midland County Circuit Court granted the company's motion for summary disposition, dismissing the case. The customer appealed and last week, the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court decision to dismiss the case.

Holding that mere "opportunity" to be subjected to conduct of a sexual nature does not trigger the civil rights act, the Michigan Court of Appeals required a showing that the plaintiff actually experienced any conduct of a sexual nature. The Court held that the civil rights act requires that the sexual conduct substantially interferes with utilization of a public accommodation, such as the female locker room at your local Planet Fitness.

For his part, the lawyer for Plaintiff commented to Michigan Lawyers Weekly that the Court of Appeals got it wrong. According to Plaintiff, the mere presence of a man in the women's locker room creates a hostile environment under the civil rights act. When that situation is expressly endorsed by the establishment -the public accommodation- through its policy, then counsel believed his case should have survived summary disposition.

Over here at the Law Blogger, this case has given us something to think about. Perhaps the offended female customer will take the matter to the next level: the Michigan Supreme Court.


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