Exercising at a gym
Exercising at a gym. Photo via Pexels.com

A transgender woman has reached a settlement with an El Cajon gym to resolve allegations that she was not allowed to use the women’s locker room and restroom in violation of state law, it was announced Wednesday.

The lawsuit filed by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing alleged that Crunch Fitness management refused Christynne Wood’s right to use those facilities despite California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, which bans discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression.

When Wood sought to use the facilities, she was told she would need a doctor’s verification that she was transitioning, but was denied access despite presenting a doctor’s letter confirming her treatments and the importance that she be able to use the women’s facilities, as well as a court order showing she had legally changed her name and gender, according to a statement from the American Civil Liberties Union.

About one year later, she was allowed access to the women’s facilities after a man harassed her in the men’s locker room by directing a homophobic slur toward Wood, the ACLU said. The DFEH filed the lawsuit against Crunch Fitness the following year.

As part of the settlement, Wood will receive an undisclosed sum and Crunch Fitness has agreed to have its employees undergo anti-discrimination training, which will include the identification and prevention of harassment based on gender expression.

“I feel elated and validated to finally reach resolution in this case,” Wood said. “I hope the settlement helps the owners of Crunch and other gyms appreciate the importance of respecting transgender people’s identities. It’s not only our legal right, but also could save a life.”

Wood remains a member of the gym, which has since undergone an ownership and management change.

DFEH Director Kevin Kish said the agency “brought suit in this case under the California Unruh Civil Rights Act to vindicate the essential right of transgender Californians to live their lives free from discrimination. Today’s settlement ensures that no Californian will face the discrimination Ms. Wood experienced in the future at this establishment.”