A transgender woman is suing a Crunch Fitness in San Diego, claiming the gym prohibited her from using the women’s locker rooms and did nothing to protect her from harassment by other members.
Christynne Wood belonged to the Crunch in El Cajon for more than a decade when she began transitioning in 2016. She regularly attended water aerobics classes and had managed to lose nearly 100 pounds.
In court papers, Wood claimed she initially continued using the men’s lockers until she was confronted by a man who smiled at her and grabbed his genitals. She reported him to a manager and asked to start using the women’s locker rooms, but was told she needed a doctor’s letter verifying that she was transitioning.
Wood presented the letter on September 30, 2016, and later provided a court order that confirmed her name and gender change, but it wasn’t until a full year later that the gym granted her access to the ladies lockers. That was after another incident, when a man in the men’s locker room referred to her as a “fucking faggot.”
A suit filed jointly by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, the ACLU of Southern California, and law firm Nixon Peabody alleges the gym and owner John Romeo were in clear violations of California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, which bans discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression.
“California law makes clear that every person has the right to use facilities appropriate to their gender identity,” said Amanda Goad, senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Southern California. “No one should have to endure the discrimination, harassment, and humiliation that Christynne experienced because of Crunch’s failure to follow the law and educate its employees about respect for transgender people.”
Wood, a Navy veteran, is seeking compensatory damages, as well as additional training for staffers and a modification of the club’s policies regarding locker-room access. A representative from Crunch Fitness’ corporate offices said the club in question was an independently owned franchise “and we cannot speak to the circumstance of the allegations.”
“Our philosophy at Crunch is ’no judgments,’ and we promote positive body image and self-esteem in a fun atmosphere,” they added. “All of our gyms are committed to creating a safe and welcoming environment for all members.”
In 2015, a Michigan woman sued Planet Fitness for revoking her membership after she complained about a trans woman being allowed to the ladies locker room.
Though Yvette Cormier insisted she was subjected to sexual harassment, invasion of privacy, and breach of contract, an appeals court ruled she had no legitimate claim against the gym for its inclusive policy. “Regardless of whether an average member of the community may find the policy outrageous, the fact is that plaintiff did not suffer severe emotional distress as a matter of law.”
Cormier has appealed to the Supreme Court, which last month ordered the case remanded back to the Michigan Appeals Court for reconsideration.