Separate investigations by the New York City Human Rights Commission into YMCA and LA Fitness locations in New York City revealed that trans and non-binary patrons were denied access to gendered bathrooms and locker rooms, prompting sweeping LGBTQ policy changes at those establishments.
The YMCA of Greater New York was slapped with $10,000 in emotional distress damages stemming from a 2018 case involving a non-binary person who said they were kicked out of the women’s bathroom and a family restroom at the YMCA at 357 Ninth Street in Brooklyn, according to the Human Rights Commission. During both incidents, the complainant said YMCA staff members told them to leave.
The Human Rights Commission’s probe into LA Fitness spanned locations across the city, including in the Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island. The investigation revealed that the gym had policies barring transgender women from using the women’s locker room unless they had gender-affirming surgery.
“If you can’t use the locker room of your choice according to the gender that you identify with, it really interferes with the ability of New Yorkers to move through society,” Sapna V. Raj, the deputy commissioner of NYCCHR’s Law Enforcement Bureau, told Gay City News.
Raj noted that it’s not only about calling out the violations, but monitoring the facilities.
“Down the line, we will make sure that they are compliant with [city non-discrimination laws],” Raj said.
As a result of the violations, 12 YMCA locations must collect and submit gender identity-related complaints to the Human Rights Commission for six months, while LA Fitness must implement an anti-discrimination policy and employment policy covering gender identity. Among other requirements, managers at both gym facilities must attend a New York City Human Rights Law training and trans-inclusive bathroom signs must be posted.
This is not the only time the YMCA has landed in hot water with the Human Rights Commission. Last year, a Human Rights Commission investigation revealed that the YMCA did not cover most gender-affirming services for trans and non-binary employees. A resolution to the suit expanded healthcare options to include specific transition-related care such as facial feminization surgery.
LA Fitness did not immediately respond to requests for comment. In a statement, YMCA spokesperson Matt Ferraguto apologized and added that the organization took action to resolve this issue.
“We are sorry that a member was made to feel unwelcome at one of our branches,” Ferraguto said. “Management took prompt, remedial action as soon as we became aware of the issue and has taken steps to ensure this never happens again, including multiple training sessions for Y staff, in coordination with the New York City Commission on Human Rights.”
Ferraguto added, “The Y is here for New Yorkers of all genders, ethnicities, and backgrounds, and to ensure everyone feels welcome and safe, we offer transgender individuals the opportunity to use the locker room that matches their gender identity. In addition to the training and a financial settlement, the Y also committed to post additional notices reaffirming that members have the right to use the facility which corresponds with their gender identity and expression and to work closely with the Commission on Human Rights to ensure that all of our branches create a welcoming atmosphere for all.”
Raj described the complainant as “happy” with the results of the YMCA settlement, noting these changes will reverberate beyond the lawsuit.
“I think it’s not only with that particular individual; it is changing the way the YMCA will handle and address issues of gender identity,” Raj said. “It helps not only that one individual but anyone who uses the YMCA.”
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