Former Event Company Employee Claims Sexual Orientation Discrimination after Pay Slashed
According to a complaint filed last week, Wesley Wernecke, a former marketing director and event manager at New York City firm Eventique, had his pay slashed as his boss compared him to a woman before firing him two weeks later. Wernecke began working for Eventique in June 2019. Shortly thereafter, Wernecke came out as gay during a meeting following comments from coworkers about his “flashy” and “girly” wedding ring.
According to Wernecke, Eventique’s owner Henry David was present when Wernecke shared that he was gay. After David learned of Wernecke’s sexual orientation, Wernecke claims David began excluding him from conferences, outside-of-work activities and business development meetings. Wernecke’s lawsuit alleges that David “took all these tactics to exclude [Wernecke] because [David] had made up his mind that he would not accept having an openly gay man in the office.” For this reason, Wernecke alleges David and Eventique sought to oust him from the company simply because he was gay.
In September 2019, Wernecke’s pay was cut from $145,000 per year to $70,000. According to Wernecke, David told him he was cutting Wernecke’s pay because “[I] couldn’t sleep at night knowing you were being paid so much more than the other females in the office.” This comment was particularly disturbing to Wernecke, who makes clear he identifies as male. Wernecke took David’s comment as evidence of David’s belief that Wernecke was an “outcast” and a “deviant” who was “unfit” to work at Eventique.
Following a pay cut to $58,000 shortly thereafter, David fired Wernecke, citing Wernecke’s constant errors and poor performance.
Eventique has performed work for such large companies as Spotify, Amazon, Nike, Twitter, and H&M. Given that Wernecke’s complaint has been featured on NBC News, and in The Guardian, The New York Post, and a host of other news channels and Internet sites, the company now risks backlash due to public scrutiny.
Failure to be respectful of individuals who identify with protected categories can risk a catastrophic impact on a business’s public relations when subject to a public lawsuit or regulatory investigation. In today’s environment, Eventique’s high-profile clients may question their association with Eventique, given the firestorm surrounding the firm. Further, they could go elsewhere for their event planning needs, all because an executive failed to understand the negative impact his alleged biases and behavior could have on the organization and its reputation—not to mention the purported treatment of an employee.
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