BRENTWOOD — A judge has ordered Planet Fitness to turn over information related to any past investigations into complaints about sexual harassment and alcohol use in the workplace in response to a lawsuit filed by a former manager who alleges the corporate office had a “debaucherous” environment with drinking games like “Fireball Friday” and “Beers with Peers.”
At a hearing Wednesday, Rockingham County Superior Court Judge Daniel St. Hilaire told Planet Fitness lawyers that they must make various documents available to Casey Willard as she tries to build her case against the popular fitness chain headquartered in Hampton.
John Sherman, Willard’s lawyer, argued that the company was refusing to provide relevant information concerning any other complaints, policies regarding alcohol use, and other documents.
Sherman said he wanted to know if other corporate employees were disciplined for alcohol use or sexual harassment and how those investigations may have been handled. He argues that the company didn’t enforce its policies, which created the environment that eventually forced an emotionally distraught Willard to resign.
Judge St. Hilaire ordered Planet Fitness to provide information related to any relevant complaints that may have been investigated during the five-year period before Willard quit in 2018.
K. Joshua Scott, an attorney for Planet Fitness, told the court that he didn’t know of anyone being investigated, disciplined, or terminated for violating an alcohol use policy since at least January 2015.
He also claims that many of Willard’s requests for information were answered, and wrote in court paperwork that some of her requests were “nothing more than a fishing expedition” designed to harass Planet Fitness.
Willard, a Dover resident, was hired as a manger in 2015 and eventually became manager of franchise development and construction for the company.
Her suit accuses the company of sexual harassment, creating a hostile work environment, discrimination, and retaliation.
She has claimed that the company’s human resources department was aware of the drinking games and sexual comments, but ignored the problems, and that it failed to enforce its anti-fraternization policy, which prohibits employees who supervised subordinates directly or indirectly from engaging in a sexual relationship with subordinates.
Willard has also alleged that she was drugged and raped on a business trip with another employee and his friends.
Planet Fitness Chief Executive Officer Christopher Rondeau; Dorvin Lively, the company’s president and chief financial officer; Joshua Beyer, former vice president of real estate and development; and Al Buell, vice president of construction, have also been named as defendants who are accused of “aiding and abetting” discriminatory practices and retaliation.
Planet Fitness has denied many of Willard’s claims and insisted that it has a zero tolerance policy related to harassment and is committed to providing a safe environment for its employees. The company’s lawyers have also claimed that Willard’s decision to add Rondeau and other top executives as defendants six months after she filed the original lawsuit was done to harass and embarrass them by “smearing their reputation in public pleadings.”
The case is scheduled for trial in June 2020.