A former Planet Fitness employee who is suing the New Hampshire-based company over "debaucherous" culture claims has named CEO Chris Rondeau and other executives as defendants in her recently amended lawsuit. She accuses them of “aiding and abetting” in discriminatory behavior that included retaliation, sexual misconduct and overseeing an unprofessional work environment, according to the Union Leader.
Casey Willard, a three-year-long employee who was most recently manager of franchise development at Planet Fitness' headquarters in Hampton, New Hampshire, originally filed a complaint in Rockingham County Superior Court in late 2018 seeking a jury trial and unspecified damages. She claims a hostile and discriminatory environment in the corporate office forced her to quit her job in 2018.
Willard has since amended the complaint to now identify the defendants as Rondeau; Dorvin Lively, Planet Fitness' president and chief financial officer; Joshua Beyer, former vice president of real estate and development; and Al Buell, vice president of construction.
Willard claims the defendants were aware that female employees were subject to sexually inappropriate comments and unwanted sexual propositions by franchisees and employees of franchisees. The complaint alleges the executives did little to stop the behavior.
The complaint states: “This conduct, lack of discipline, and lack of policy enforcement created an atmosphere of intimidation and domination for younger female employees like Ms. Willard."
Willard's case describes "Fireball Friday," an alleged office ritual in which managers would direct subordinates to consume whiskey throughout the day, sometimes as early as 8:30 a.m.
“Defendants Rondeau, Lively and Buell were managers and/or supervisors who knew of these activities, sometimes participated in them, were aware that they caused employees to be under the influence (i.e., drunk) at work, and did nothing to stop them from occurring," the complaint states.
During her employment, Willard claims she was sexually harassed by multiple male colleagues and was drugged and raped by one employee and his friends during a 2017 business trip. In her complaint, she details an episode in which a supervisor allegedly coerced her into a sexual relationship that violated company policy.
Near the end of her employment, Willard alleges she refused to sign a settlement proposal from the company that offered to pay her six months salary.
“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.”