A New Hampshire judge has ruled that top Planet Fitness executives, including CEO Chris Rondeau, will be formally named as defendants in a lawsuit that accuses the executives of being complicit in discriminatory practices at the company's Hampton headquarters.
Casey Willard, a former manager of franchise development at Planet Fitness' headquarters, filed an initial complaint in Rockingham County Superior Court in late 2018 seeking a jury trial and unspecified damages. She claimed the corporate office had a hostile and discriminatory environment that forced her to quit her job in 2018.
In February 2019, Willard amended her complaint to identify several key company executives as defendants, including 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.
Rockingham County Superior Court Judge Daniel St. Hilaire recently ruled that the executives will be officially named as defendants in the lawsuit, despite their lawyers’ protests, according to the Union Leader.
“It is clear that plaintiff’s decision to amend her complaint now, nearly six months after her initial complaint, was made in order to harass and embarrass these individuals by smearing their reputation in public pleadings,” Planet Fitness’ lawyers stated in court documents. “Plaintiff should try her case in this court, not the press.”
Willard’s suit portrays a “debaucherous” environment at the corporate offices with claims of ritualistic drinking activities such as Fireball Friday, Beers with Peers and Beer Cart Friday, in which managers would direct subordinates to consume alcohol as early as 8:30 a.m.
Willard’s complaint states: “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.”
Willard also claims the defendants were aware that female employees were routinely 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.
During her employment, Willard said 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 case is slated for trial in March 2020.