A gay German PR expert working in Beijing was devastated and humiliated when he lost his job allegedly because his client at Mercedes-Benz found his ‘lifestyle’ (sexuality) ‘unacceptable’.
Stefan Susbauer started working for German PR agency OSK in Beijing as China general manager in June 2011.
Susbauer said OSK told him last year he could no longer work for them because a Chinese executive at Daimler AG (who own Mercedes-Benz) had a problem with his ‘lifestyle’, claims which have been unsubstantiated.
The executive complained specifically that Susbauer sent a photograph of bare-chested men wearing bow-ties to colleagues.
‘I took it [the photograph] at a media event hosted in Beijing by Toni & Guy, a global beauty partner of Mercedes-Benz fashion week,’ Susbauer told Gay Star News.
‘There were many Chinese celebrities attending and I think one of the ladies I photographed – surrounded by the male model – is a popular Chinese actress. There is nothing obscene in this picture.’
Susbauer, who has lived with his husband Thomas for 24 years, is challenging OSK on the dispute and both parties were in Cologne Labor Court yesterday for a hearing.
What happened in court is disputed by both parties and Gay Star News is awaiting clarification from the German court officials.
Both agree that they were in court to have the employment relationship between the parties established – contract or freelance and over what dates.
Susbauer says that the court confirmed his legal working relationship with OSK and said that the reasons the PR company put forward for his dismissal were not valid, but the case has not been officially decided.
The OSK spokesperson said that the court ‘established that no employment existed at any time’ and Susbauer was a freelancer.
The spokesperson also said that the court did not confirm the allegations that this was a case of discrimination regarding sexual orientation, and the case was dismissed.
‘I have lost much more than a lot of money,’ Susbauer said. ‘I lost my reputation and a wonderful career in China. I really loved my job and the way I was humiliated is devastating.’
The OSK spokesperson said that Susbauer was dismissed because of ‘his unprofessional attitude, lack of leadership skills, and pursuit of personal activities during working time’.
Susbauer defended the quality of his work for OSK, saying:
‘I was told that the projects my team and me created for Mercedes-Benz were considered as "benchmark events" and even won awards.’
The statement from OSK added:
‘OSK is a place where many LGBT professionals work and thrive, and there is no specific policy that addresses sexuality because it is simply not a factor for which OSK considers in its hiring practices.
‘It is a disservice to hardworking LGBT professionals not only at OSK, but around the world, that Mr. Susbauer has chosen to falsely use his sexuality as an excuse for his dismissal, when there are countless cases of actual discrimination based on sexuality waiting to be heard, and dealt the swift hand of justice.’