A Planet Fitness gym in Florida has revoked a woman’s membership after she voiced discomfort with a man, who claimed to be a transgender woman, being in the locker room while she was changing clothes, according to a complaint.
The Liberty Counsel, a conservative religious freedom law group, sent a letter last week to Planet Fitness CEO Chris Rondeau to demand that the national gym chain reinstate a Florida woman who was kicked out of a Planet Fitness in Leesburg, Florida, in May.
The woman, who’s only identified in the letter by the name “Mrs. H,” is a survivor of attempted rape and says that her membership was revoked shortly after she was harassed by a transgender person in the locker room.
The organization has a “judgement free” policy that, among other things, permits men who identify as women, and vice versa, to use the locker rooms and showers that correspond with their gender identity.
“On May 29, 2018, staff at the Leesburg location revoked Mrs. H.’s membership after she was intimidated and alarmed by Mr. Rice in the women’s locker room at this location, and complained about him,” the letter reads.
The letter states that Rice made no attempts to appear as a woman and is said to have been standing in the women’s locker room facing the mirror and “pretending” to apply makeup when Mrs. H entered the locker room.
“She was disturbed by his presence, politely confronted him and asked him to leave the women’s locker room,” the letter from the Florida-based legal group states. “Instead, he smirked back at her, and continued to stare at her, remaining standing in front of the mirror ‘applying makeup,’ where he had a full view of every single woman entering or exiting the shower area and every single locker, Mrs. H.’s locker, which was directly behind him within [3 feet].”
According to the letter, Mrs. H left the locker room when Rice refused to leave in order to give him time to finish using the facility. However, Rice allegedly remained in the locker room for at least another hour and continued to apply makeup.
“He was observed to have entered and exited the locker room, wearing the same clothes, and had not showered or changed,” the letter adds. “Despite a male employee observing that Mr. Rice’s behavior was ‘over the top,’ staff did not intervene and ask him to finish his business, but permitted him to monopolize the women’s locker room.”
An open records request revealed that Rice reportedly called the police on Mrs. H to say that he had been “sexually harassed.”
“He can be heard on his 911 call, following Mrs. H. across the parking lot of the establishment, over into the next parking lot, calmly relaying to the dispatcher his and Mrs. H.’s appearances, a description of Mrs. H.’s vehicle, and the direction in which she was headed,” the letter reads. “The fact that he was and is a man was evident to the dispatcher, who repeatedly refers to him as ‘sir’ on that call. No police report was filed.”
Liberty Counsel lawyers Mary E. McAlister and Richard L. Mast assert that Rice had no “legitimate purpose in taking an hour when pretending to ‘apply makeup.'”
“He appears to be a misogynist, or perhaps have a fetish and derive sexual enjoyment from depriving women of privacy,” the attorneys wrote.
Planet Fitness’ stated goal is to provide “a clean, safe, welcoming environment for anyone who walks through our door” and all the “support you need once you’re here.”
Although Rice has reportedly transferred to another Planet Fitness, Mrs. H was left to find a new place to workout. After the confrontation with Rice, Mrs. H was sent a cancellation notice that claimed she violated the organization’s “Lunk” policy, which prohibits dropping weights, grunting and judging.
Planet Fitness responded to Liberty Counsel’s letter, saying: “Planet Fitness is committed to creating a non-intimidating, welcoming environment for all of our members and their safety and privacy is our top priority. Under our gender identity non-discrimination policy, members and guests may use all gym facilities based on their sincere self-reported gender identity. Furthermore, all of our locker rooms include private changing areas for those that seek additional privacy. As this is pending litigation we are unable to comment further.”
The Liberty Counsel’s letter further argues that “It is not ‘judging’ to question the presence of an obvious man in the women’s locker room who is intentionally depriving women of privacy, or parading himself naked in the women’s locker.” It adds that Planet Fitness is committing consumer fraud by failing to disclose its policies permitting access of opposite-sex individuals in writing.
Similar issues have arisen with Rice in the past, according to McAlister and Mast.
“This is not the only incident with Mr. Rice known to Planet Fitness. Another woman reported that he exposed his naked body to her in the women’s locker room at this location,” the letter states. “In another instance, he was involved in an argument with another woman over use of the tanning room. Misogynist, anti-woman harassment should have no place in Planet Fitness locations, and violates Florida law.”
The Liberty Counsel attorneys state that women have a “reasonable expectation of privacy” when using the Planet Fitness facilities and that the current policy could result in women like Mrs. H, who have experienced sexual assault in their lives, to “relive trauma.”
“[Planet Fitness] also has abused its discretion and violated its own policies by prematurely canceling Mrs. H.’s membership, without ever listening to the 911 call, getting her side of the story, and giving credence to a non-existent ‘panic attack’ as claimed by Mr. Rice,” the attorneys contend.
The Liberty Counsel urged Planet Fitness to reinstate Mrs. H’s membership. It also called on the organization to either alter its policies to permit access to restrooms and locker rooms based only on biological sex or at least provide warning in membership contracts and in posted notices about the policy.
Liberty Counsel threatened to take further action if Planet Fitness does not respond to its requests by next Thursday.
This is not the first time that Planet Fitness has taken action against a woman who has complained about the presence of a transgender person in the locker room.
In 2015, a Planet Fitness in Michigan revoked Yvette Cormier’s membership after she complained about a man walking into the women’s locker room while she was getting undressed.
Cormier filed a lawsuit against the company on grounds that it breached its contract. However, both a lower court and appeals court ruled in favor of the company.