Planet Fitness Operators Sued for Sexual Harassment, Discrimination

A former Planet Fitness employee is suing the Planet Fitness franchisees who operated the club where she worked on the grounds of sex/gender discrimination, sexual assault, sexual harassment, retaliation and constructive discharge by the defendants.

The case was filed last Thursday and entered Tuesday in U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York in Manhattan. The plaintiff is identified as Daniela Hernandez, although the complaint says that her identification as such is "due to the extreme hardship such revelation of her identity would cause," according to the complaint obtained by Club Industry. Hernandez is listed as a resident of the Bronx, NY.

The defendants are PFIP LLC (dba Planet Fitness), PF Investors LLC, 2480 Grand Concourse Fitness Group LLC and PFNY LLC, who were all joint employers of Hernandez when she worked at the Planet Fitness on Grand Concourse in the Bronx. The corporate office of Planet Fitness, Newington, NH, was not named in the lawsuit.

Hernandez, who began working as a guest service specialist at the Planet Fitness in July 2013, claims she performed sexual favors against her will for the manager of the club, who is not named in the complaint. The manager, who also was her supervisor, allegedly made Hernandez perform these favors in his office with his door closed and locked and all surveillance cameras put on review mode, according to the complaint, which contains graphic details.

The manager also allegedly made derogatory comments to Hernandez during her time at the club. One day in early October, Hernandez claims the manager forced her "to have sex with him, thereby raping her," according to the complaint. Shortly thereafter, Hernandez quit her job.

While she was employed at the Planet Fitness, Hernandez was fearful of losing her job because she says she was homeless before working there and "could not risk becoming homeless again," according to the complaint.

On two occasions, Jan. 30 and March 5 of this year, Hernandez filed charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regarding her complaints of discrimination, harassment and retaliation. On April 28, the EEOC issued a right to sue letter.

A spokesperson for the Planet Fitness corporate office told Club Industry today in an email, "As a matter of policy, we do not comment on pending litigation, particularly litigation to which we are not a party." An official with PFNY was copied on the email request and reply.

The case was first reported by the New York Post.