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Solidcore Employees Alleged Their CEO Created A Toxic Culture. Now They're Calling For Her To Step Down.

A group of Solidcore coaches launched a petition calling for Anne Mahlum to resign or be removed by the company's board after a BuzzFeed News article detailing allegations of verbal abuse and sexual harassment.

Posted on August 19, 2020, at 9:06 p.m. ET

Addy Baird / BuzzFeed News

A group of coaches at Solidcore are calling for the removal of the boutique fitness company’s founder and CEO Anne Mahlum following a BuzzFeed News report in which two dozen employees detailed allegations of a toxic and abusive workplace.

“We are calling for Anne Mahlum, Solidcore Founder and CEO, to step down immediately from her position in response to the recent Buzzfeed article confirming allegations of harassment and abuse,” the petition states. “Should Anne refuse to step down we hope that the Solidcore Board… will vote to save the integrity of the company and to protect its workers. We condemn their inaction thus far.”

The petition is sponsored by Solidcore United, a mostly anonymous group of Solidcore coaches who have organized to push for better health and safety regulations at the fitness chain.

“This request is being made out of love for Solidcore, deep desire to see it succeed, and belief that all coaches, managers, and employees deserve a safe, inclusive, and equitable working environment,” they write. “In signing this petition, Solidcore clients pledge to refrain from purchasing further classes and merchandise from Solidcore until Anne Mahlum ends her relationship with the company.”

Solidcore United organizer Emily Collinson said in a text message to BuzzFeed News following the petition’s launch Wednesday that Mahlum stepping down could mark “a new chapter, one in which a truly safe, equitable, and inclusive environment is fostered.”

“I want those who are dedicated to the brand — both clients and coaches/employees — to be able to feel good about working out at and working for Solidcore,” she said. “I believe that with new leadership, Solidcore can truly start to embody the values it claims as its brand.”

Courtesy Emily Collinson

Emily Collinson

As BuzzFeed News previously reported, Solidcore ended its working relationship with Collinson, a former coach, earlier this summer after she began organizing instructors to demand better safety practices at the company in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Collinson later filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board contending that Solidcore restrained employees from speaking negatively about the company, illegally prevented coaches from organizing, and told employees they should quit if they didn’t feel safe at work.

In more than two dozen interviews, two dozen current and former Solidcore employees, including senior corporate leaders, said Collinson’s firing was symptomatic of a toxic culture at the company. They said Mahlum was often verbally abusive and at times sexually harassed employees, including, two former employees said, undressing in front of employees at a 2016 party at her home. BuzzFeed News viewed texts, emails, and other documents corroborating the employees’ accounts.

Other employees described instances of body-shaming, such as the company putting a scale in front of employee snacks, and several former company leaders alleged that Mahlum had fired two instructors she felt were not thin enough. Former high-level employees also said the company has a practice of avoiding paying vendor bills and alleged Mahlum opened new studios before certificates of occupancy were issued and misclassified employees as contractors to avoid paying taxes.

“It just felt like we're being taken advantage of because we love the company, you know, we love the workout and the communities,” one former employee said in an interview. “It’s like, ‘Well, we can treat them whatever way we want because we kind of know that they'll just do it.’”

In a statement to BuzzFeed News, Mahlum said, “I am deeply apologetic that anyone in the company or community was uncomfortable – whether now or 4-5 years ago. I am committed to learning and growing. … I hope those who I made uncomfortable will accept my apology.”

Mahlum also said in the statement that the company’s studios “comply with all guidelines, regulations, and laws,” and added that Solidcore and her own career are both “built on inspiring and connecting people through our inclusive community, which includes a diverse staff – race, gender and body type throughout every level of the organization.”

The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment from BuzzFeed News on Wednesday about the petition calling for Mahlum’s removal.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.