Planet Fitness, Newington, New Hampshire, is seeking injunctive relief against a former corporate payroll manager who allegedly stole confidential company information.
Play-Fit Franchise LLC filed a complaint against Jason Cole in U.S. District Court in Maine on Monday (read in full below), the same day Cole's employment was terminated from the company. Cole allegedly threatened to disrupt last week's initial public offering by publicly disclosing a confidential e-mail not intended for him, and Planet Fitness believed he would misappropriate other company information.
Cole had access to information on approximately 900 corporate employees, including the executive team, according to the complaint. Planet Fitness had "immediate concern" he may have used his access to download confidential information to his personal computer.
Judge Jon Levy took the case under consideration and made no immediate ruling, according to the Portland Press Herald.
Cole's access to personally identifiable information included Social Security numbers, home addresses, bank account information, compensation and other personal information, according to the complaint.
Planet Fitness is seeking to keep Cole and former Planet Fitness Human Resources Administrator Laura Shaw, who the complaint says lives with Cole, from using or disseminating confidential company information. The company also is requesting the two return all company property, return all confidential information in their possession, surrender all electronic devices capable of storing Planet Fitness information, surrender all hard copy documents containing Planet Fitness information, and pay attorney fees and other relief the court deems just and proper.
In his position as payroll manager, Cole was responsible for managing all aspects of centralized payroll processing and reporting for corporate headquarters and corporate club employees in the United States and Canada.
In June, Cole accidentally received an e-mail from Chief Administrative Officer and General Counsel Richard Moore, which was an attorney-client privileged exchange regarding a settlement agreement. Cole was directed by the Planet Fitness information technology department to remove the e-mail from his computer, and the matter was considered resolved after a follow-up, according to the complaint.
Shaw's employment ws terminated on July 29 for an undisclosed reason. Cole was in a meeting the next day with Planet Fitness Director of Human Resources Karen Avery and Planet Fitness Associate General Counsel Alison Johnson in which he was "agitated," according to the complaint. Cole allegedly expressed concern during the meeting that he was about to be terminated.
Also during that meeting, Cole allegedly said he downloaded Moore's e-mail to his home computer and retained a copy of it. Cole called the e-mail "damning" and threatened to release it publicly before Planet Fitness went public in an attempt to disrupt the initial public offering, according to the complaint.
Avery later discovered that Cole forwarded confidential information to Shaw, including other employees' performance plans, according to the complaint. The filing also notes that the company had received complaints that alleged that Cole was stalking, harassing and intimidating some Planet Fitness members, according to the complaint.
Planet Fitness claims the U.S. District Court has jurisdiction in this case under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and because the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.
Judge Levy issued a temporary restraining order against Cole and anyone working with him in relation to this case. The order, filed Monday, also required Cole to post a $20,000 bond. The order will remain in effect until Aug. 24.
The order states:
- Cole shall not use, copy, destroy, disseminate, transmit, secret, print, publish, tamper with, or alter Planet Fitness’ confidential information;
- Cole shall immediately return to Planet Fitness all property and hard copies of documents in his possession or control that belong to Planet Fitness.
- Cole shall preserve, maintain, and protect all personal computers, hard drives, portable storage devices, smartphones, and other electronic communications, computing, or storage devices in his possession or control. In addition, Cole is specifically ORDERED to preserve, maintain, and protect, all information belonging to Planet Fitness that is stored in or on any of the foregoing types of devices in his possession or control, and shall keep it confidential.