CONCORD, N.H. — A former manager at New Hampshire-based Planet Fitness has sued the company, saying she was subjected to a male-dominated, “debaucherous” environment that included sexual harassment and rape.
Senior management at the Hampton headquarters organized drinking activities such as “Fireball Friday,” said Casey Willard, who joined the company in 2015. Employees “competed regarding the number of shots they could consume in the least amount of time” at work, and one manager brought vodka-based gummy worms to work, the lawsuit said.
Willard, who was new at the time and followed managers’ direction, “sometimes found herself drunk at work by 11:00 a.m.,” the lawsuit said.
Willard also claims in her lawsuit filed in September in Rockingham County Superior Court that she was drugged and raped on a business trip in September 2017 to California by a company manager and his friends.
She reported the rape to police in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and to the company, the lawsuit said. It is unclear why the Portsmouth department was contacted or what became of the police report a message was left with the police seeking comment.
She told two Planet Fitness attorneys she didn’t want others within the company to know what happened to her but later learned other managers knew, the lawsuit said.
Willard also said that a manager initiated a sexual relationship with her, in violation of an anti-fraternization policy, and that she was concerned she might lose her job. She eventually notified the company earlier this year that she was unable to return to work, the lawsuit said.
“The work environment at Planet Fitness’ corporate offices was, to say the least, debaucherous,” according to the lawsuit, adding that senior management consisted of men “whom openly made sexual comments, sexual innuendo, and engaged in pretend sexual contact toward female employees.”
McCall Gosselin, a spokeswoman for Planet Fitness, said in a statement Thursday that the company investigated Willard’s claims and fired an employee for violation of company policy. The company later independently learned of a consensual relationship between Willard and a supervisor that Willard didn’t bring to its attention, Gosselin said. The supervisor was fired.
Willard voluntarily left the company in April, Gosselin said. The company disputes her other “baseless allegations.”
Willard is seeking a jury trial and unspecified damages arising from sexual harassment and a hostile work environment, discrimination and wrongful termination. Her working conditions were so difficult “that a reasonable person subjected to these conditions would feel forced to resign,” she said.
The Associated Press doesn’t typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission, as Willard has done.
Founded in 1992 in Dover, New Hampshire, Planet Fitness operates over 1,500 fitness centres in the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada, the Dominican Republic and Panama.