An ex-employee at a New York-based event planning company says his boss tried cut his pay in half because he earned "so much more than the other females in the office."
Wesley Wernecke, a former senior producer at Eventique, claims he was discriminated against —and ultimately fired — due to his sexuality. Wernecke was reportedly let go last month, and his now filing a lawsuit against the company, WNBC-TV reported.
The suit alleges that Wernecke experienced a climate of discrimination that started after his boss, CEO Henry Liron David, learned he was gay, according to Anthony Consiglio, Wernecke's lawyer.
Wernecke joined the company in June, moving from Boston to New York in order to take the job. Shortly after, one of his coworkers commented on his "girly" engagement ring, asking Wernecke if his wife had a similar band. Wernecke answer by saying his partner, Evan, did wear one.
According to the lawsuit, that situation resulted in an increased level of tension within the office, with coworkers starting to ignore him as they entered the office each morning. They also allegedly excluded him from corporate lunches, and took part in a number of other isolating moves that led to Wernecke seeking a psychiatrist in order to deal with his newfound mental stress.
"David took pains to mark Wernecke as different from the other employees through these physical demonstrations," the lawsuit states. "Neither Wernecke's professional experience and accomplishments nor the goodwill he brought to Eventique's work earned him equality."
David sought to create a "hostile" and "rigidly heterosexual" work environment, even encouraging jokes about gay men, according to the suit.
The situation completely boiled over when David informed Wernecke that his salary — $145,000 per year — was essentially being cut in half. When the CEO told Wernecke he'd now be receiving just $70,000, he allegedly said the following:
"I couldn't sleep at night thinking that you were being paid so much more than the other females in the office," according to the suit.
David later threatened to cut Wernecke's salary one more time, bringing the yearly total down to just $58,000. Wernecke's lawsuit claims that he took issue with the pay cut and was ultimately fired on Oct. 4.
"David simply could not bear the thought that Eventique would continue to be represented by a gay man," the lawsuit states.
The CEO's lawyer, Gena Zaiderman, has denied the allegations in Wernecke's suit, calling them "baseless."