Planet Fitness must provide a New Hampshire court with documentation of any past investigations into alleged episodes of sexual misconduct and workplace alcohol consumption as part of an ongoing lawsuit that was filed by a former manager who worked at the company's headquarters in Hampton, New Hampshire.
Casey Willard, former franchise development manager, filed her complaint in Rockingham County Superior Court in late 2018. She is seeking a jury trial and damages on claims that Planet Fitness' corporate office's discriminatory environment forced her to quit her job in 2018.
Willard alleges she was coerced into a sexual relationship with a supervisor that violated company policy, as well as that she was drugged and raped by a company employee during a 2017 business trip. The suit also claims that ritualistic drinking activities called Fireball Friday, Beers with Peers and Beer Cart Friday, were common in the office, with supervisors directing subordinates to consume alcohol before 9 a.m.
At a Nov. 6 hearing, Rockingham County Superior Court Judge Daniel St. Hilaire ordered Planet Fitness' legal counsel to provide Willard with any internal investigation documents created between 2013 and 2018 that will help her build her case, according to the Union Leader.
In court, Willard's lawyer John Sherman has argued that Planet Fitness was withholding relevant information to the case and wanted to know if, over time, corporate employees had been disciplined for episodes of inappropriate drinking or sexual behavior.
Planet Fitness lawyer K. Joshua Scott told Hilaire he was unaware of any instances of alcohol-related discipline within the company since January 2015. He also claimed that many of Willard's information requests had been fulfilled, some of which he categorized as "fishing expedition[s]" intended to harass the company, according to the Union Leader.
When Club Industry first reported about the lawsuit in December 2018, Planet Fitness spokeswoman McCall Gosselin told Club Industry that one employee was fired after a past internal investigation related to Willard's complaint of sexual assault. Additionally, Gosselin said at the time that the company learned of a consensual relationship between Willard and a supervisor and ultimately 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 on Dec. 4, 2018. “We vehemently dispute the other baseless allegations outlined in the complaint, and we intend to vigorously defend ourselves against them.”
In mid-2019, Hilaire ruled that key company executives will be officially named as defendants in the lawsuit, including Chris Rondeau, CEO; Dorvin Lively, president and CFO; Joshua Beyer, former vice president of real estate and development; and Al Buell, vice president of construction.
A trial is slated for June 2020.
Planet Fitness recently ranked No. 6 on Club Industry’s Top 100 Health Clubs of 2019 list with $572.9 million in 2018 revenue from corporate-owned locations and franchisee fees but not individual franchisee revenue.