Gay employee says salary was halved to be even with 'females in the office'

Edward Helmore in New York
Photograph: Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images

A gay man working at a New York events company has claimed in a discrimination lawsuit that his pay was halved so he would be on a par with “other females in the office”.

In the lawsuit against Eventique, a company that stages promotional events for companies including Nike, Twitter and Amazon, Wesley Wernecke claims his employers sought to alienate and degrade him after they learned he was gay, NBC news reported.

Wernecke claims that a week after he was hired in June, co-workers began to make comments on his “girly” engagement ring. Asked if his wife wore a similar ring, Wernecke replied that his partner, Evan, did.

It was then, he claims, that a tense office environment began to develop between him, co-workers and the company’s chief executive, CEO Henry Liron David. He was then excluded from meetings and after-work drinks with “the fellas”, passed over for assignments and subjected to discriminatory remarks.

Wernecke was then called into David’s office and told his salary was being cut by more than 50%, from $145,000 to $70,000.

“I couldn’t sleep at night thinking that you were being paid so much more than the other females in the office,” David is alleged to have told Wernecke. The CEO, the complaint alleges, “simply could not bear the thought that Eventique would continue to be represented by a gay man”.

Not long after, Wernecke found his salary had been cut more drastically to $58,000.

“David took pains to mark Wernecke as different from the other employees through these physical demonstrations,” the complaint alleges. The pattern of discrimination taxed Wernecke’s mental health and he began taking anti-anxiety medication to cope, he said. By October, he had been fired.

“Wesley was personally recruited by this employer to be a senior producer, and once [David] learned he was gay, the employer began shutting him out of the business,” Wernecke’s lawyer Anthony Consiglio told NBC News.

A lawyer for David and Eventique described the allegations as “baseless”.