PORTLAND — Planet Fitness has settled its civil case against its former payroll manager, Jason Cole, whom the company had alleged in court documents of threatening to release the contents of a company email sent to him in error.

The civil complaint, filed Aug. 10, by Pla-Fit Franchise LLC, was dismissed Nov. 10 with prejudice, which means it cannot be brought again.

A federal judge in August granted a temporary restraining order to prevent Cole, who worked at the company’s New Hampshire headquarters, from distributing confidential company communications.

Cole said the lawsuit – and the publicity that ensued – had an impact on his career.

“Everywhere I was applying, the people had read the articles and were understandably nervous about hiring me,” he wrote in an email to the Journal Tribune. “Now I can go to jobs with a letter from them stating it was dropped. “

Cole on Tuesday said he had heard from three companies, and that he was hoping to start working again soon.

“I am feeling very relieved that it’s over and my name is cleared,” said Cole. “I knew I was innocent and was nervous about how long it would take to have my name cleared, but my attorney worked hard to get a fair settlement.”

Neither Cole or his attorney, Paul Aronson, disclosed terms of the settlement. Aronson said Cole had engaged in no wrongdoing and was “very satisfied” with the resolution.

Attorneys for Planet Fitness referred the newspaper to the company for comment; officials there could not be reached by press time.

Planet Fitness had contended Cole, of Lebanon, had threatened to release what he allegedly called a “damning” email that he’d received in error with the aim of disrupting the company’s August public offering on the New York Stock Exchange, according to an August Associated Press story. The Newington, New Hampshire-based company operates 56 fitness clubs nationwide.

Cole was hired as payroll manager July 22, 2014. He was terminated from that position on the day following the court filing. He is the former assistant rescue chief in Lebanon and had previously worked as a dispatch manager in Rochester, New Hampshire, and as human resources director for the City of Sanford.

According to documents on file at the U.S. District Court in Portland, Cole on June 3 received an email sent to him by mistake, intended for another individual, an attorney of the same name who did work for the company. Cole called the director of human resources and told her he had received the email in error. He was told to delete the email and told the manager he already had, according to the complaint.

Then, on July 30, he met with the human resources manager and the company’s general counsel. He expressed concern that another employee had been fired from her job and expressed concern that he would be as well, the court papers noted. During that conversation, he allegedly said he had downloaded the email in question to his home computer, kept a copy and allegedly threatened to reveal its contents prior to the public offering.

The three-count complaint alleged breach of contract, conversion of company information for his own use and breach of the computer fraud and abuse act.

Cole said he’s glad the matter has been settled.

“Fortunately I had a lot of family, friends and community members who supported me through this and made it a little easier, which I am very thankful for,” he said.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or [email protected]


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