Drop and Give me 180! Planet Fitness Lawsuit Dropped, Settlement Paid to former Employee

In today’s corporate business world, lawsuits have become as common as budget meetings. One false step, or even a lifting of the foot in the wrong direction, and papers are filed with the court system. Based on new information released Monday, that appears to be what happened in August when Planet Fitness simultaneously fired and filed a lawsuit against its payroll manager, Jason Cole.

Planet Fitness
Now, three months later, the tides have changed dramatically. After negotiations between legal teams on both sides, the company has dropped all charges against their former employee, instead agreeing to pay him a settlement of an undisclosed amount.

Pla-Fit Franchise LLC, parent company of the American gym chain based out of Newington, New Hampshire since 1992, filed the suit against Mr. Cole in August  2015, just days after its initial public offering (IPO) on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: PLNT). According to court documents filed in the U.S. District Court of Portland, Cole allegedly stole “highly sensitive personal and financial information” about employees of Planet Fitness.

The company accused its payroll manager of stealing confidential, insider information, and then threatening to use it against Planet Fitness in an effort to undermine the company’s IPO. He was subsequently charge with three counts of misconduct, including breach of contract, computer fraud and converting personal and financial payroll information for personal use.

Planet Fitness said that the accused was mistakenly sent an email on June 3 that was meant for the company attorney, who happened to share the same name, Jason Cole.

According to the payroll manager, once he realized the information was not for him, he spoke with human resources about the matter and was instructed to delete the email. Mr. Cole says that’s exactly what he did.

The lawsuit, however, claims that Mr. Cole downloaded the email to his home computer before deleting it, keeping a copy of its contents for personal use.

“Cole stated that the June 3 email was ‘damning’ from a business and political perspective and threatened to release it publicly right before Planet Fitness went public, in an attempt to disrupt the IPO,” read the lawsuit.

“Given that Cole has a history of threatening and unstable behavior,” claimed the company, “there is an exceptionally high risk that Cole will do something drastic with this information after he learns of his termination from Planet Fitness on August 10, 2015.”

Oddly enough, Cole did not receive the email notifying him of his unemployment status until the lawsuit has already been filed, and blasted through the media. He said that he actually read about his termination and the claims against him in the Portland Press Herald prior to reception of the dismissal notice.

“It was heartbreaking because I loved my job. I liked my coworkers,” said Cole, who maintained no wrongdoing throughout the proceedings. He added that, since the lawsuit was filed, he has been unable to attain a full-time job due to the stigmatic shadow over his reputation.

The case was dismissed on November 10, followed by Monday’s clandestine settlement agreement that came with absolute nondisclosure. Thus the amount which Mr. Cole was paid in the settlement has been concealed, and both parties have agreed to never again speak of the case or the information that may have been contained in the email.

Paul Aranson, Cole’s attorney in the case, was pleased with the outcome, calling it a “full reversal.” He said the settlement was a result of Planet Fitness being unable to “prove their case because my client didn’t do anything wrong.”

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