A former Planet Fitness employee is suing the New Hampshire-based company's corporate offices, claiming its "debaucherous" culture fostered sexual misconduct, including an alleged rape, as well as alcoholic drinking competitions in the office during the business day.
Casey Willard, a three-year-long employee who was most recently manager of franchise development at Planet Fitness' Hampton headquarters, recently filed a lawsuit in Rockingham County Superior Court seeking a jury trial and unspecified damages, according to the Union Leader. In her suit, Willard claims the corporate office's hostile and discriminatory environment forced her to quit her job earlier this year.
The case claims a corporate office staple was "Fireball Friday," during which managers would direct subordinates to consume whiskey throughout the day. Willard claims she sometimes was drunk at work by 11 a.m.
The company’s human resources department was aware of such issues but did not resolve them, the suit claims. Employees who did not fully participate in office activities were allegedly ostracized and told they were not behaving like team players.
During her employment, Willard alleges she was sexually harassed by several male colleagues and was drugged and raped by one employee and his friends during a 2017 business trip to California. Willard's case also details an episode in which a supervisor allegedly coerced her into a sexual relationship that violated company policy.
“The work environment at Planet Fitness’ corporate offices was, to say the least, debaucherous,” the lawsuit states, noting that senior male managers “openly made sexual comments, sexual innuendo, and engaged in pretend sexual contact toward female employees.”
Willard previously reported the alleged rape to the company, and spokeswoman McCall Gosselin said one employee was fired after an internal investigation, the Union Leader reported. Gosselin also said the company independently learned of a consensual relationship between Willard and a supervisor and, in turn, fired the supervisor.
“At Planet Fitness, we have a zero tolerance policy related to harassment of any kind, and are committed to providing a safe environment for all employees,” Planet Fitness told Club Industry in a Dec. 4 statement. “We vehemently dispute the other baseless allegations outlined in the complaint and we intend to vigorously defend ourselves against them.”
Willard claims that near the end of her employment she learned Planet Fitness was planning to fire her. She alleges the company ultimately offered to pay her six months salary via a settlement agreement, which she refused to sign, believing the company was discriminating against her as a victim of sexual assault.
“Sometimes she was so anxious and overwhelmed with how she was being treated and confused about her employment status that she sat at her desk crying and shaking,” the suit states.
The lawsuit was filed a few days after Planet Fitness CEO Chris Rondeau appeared on CNBC's "Mad Money" with Jim Cramer to discuss the growth of the company and new equipment purchasing requirements for its franchisees.
Planet Fitness ranked sixth on Club Industry's Top 100 Health Clubs of 2018, with reported revenue of $429.90 million for 2017. The company is the highest-ranking franchisor on the list.