Gov. Chris Sununu says Planet Fitness CEO Chris Rondeau remains a “pinnacle” of the state’s business community, even as Rondeau faces accusations that he helped create a hostile work environment for female employees of the Hampton-based company.
Sununu spent Thursday morning in a Planet Fitness gym in Manchester, where the company kicked off its Teen Summer Challenge to get young Granite Staters more fit and active.
Last November, a former Planet Fitness employee filed a complaint in Rockingham County Superior Court alleging a “debaucherous” corporate culture. She alleges that managers pressured subordinate employees to take shots of alcohol during “Fireball Fridays.” She also claimed senior leadership made “sexual comments, sexual innuendo and engaged in pretend sexual conduct toward female employees.”
The lawsuit accuses Rondeau of having sexually intimate relationships with subordinate employees, in violation of the company’s policy.
Sununu, who during his two terms in office has championed the rights of crime victims and praised those who have come forward with their claims, spoke highly of Rondeau, who is a named defendant in the Planet Fitness lawsuit.
“Chris has been a great pinnacle for the community, and we are just so proud to have Planet Fitness right here in New Hampshire,” said Sununu.
The governor confirmed that he is aware of the pending litigation, which is scheduled for trial next year.
“Look, I’m not going to opine on an outstanding lawsuit right now. I don’t know any of the facts behind that. That will play itself out. The fact is, Planet Fitness is a great company and we are proud to have them here in New Hampshire,” Sununu said.
In response to the lawsuit, Planet Fitness says it investigated the allegations and fired two employees who violated policies.
"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," says a company spokesperson. "We vehemently dispute the other baseless allegations outlined in the complaint and we intend to vigorously defend ourselves against them."
Lawyers for the plaintiff in the case did not return a call requesting comment. Sununu’s statements on Rondeau were met with criticism by the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, which works with survivors of abuse.
“The pending suit against Mr. Rondeau and Planet Fitness contains serious allegations of workplace sexual harassment and drug-facilitated sexual assault,” says Amanda Grady Sexton, the Coalition’s director of public affairs. “If the court finds these allegations to be true, this is certainly nothing to be ‘proud’ of. It’s critical that we send a strong message to businesses that New Hampshire has a zero tolerance policy for any kind of harassment or discrimination.”
Sununu also praised the company for its charitable work, including ongoing support for the Boys & Girls Club.
Last June, Rondeau contributed $5,000 to Sununu’s re-election campaign.