Doubts have been raised about Mr Susbauer’s account of his dismissal from OSK, please see updates below.
We’ve all had that coworker, the party guy/gal who doesn’t quite understand boundaries and is overly keen to show you photos from their most recent night out. But is oversharing really a cause for dismissal? Apparently if you work with Mercedes-Benz China it is, especially if you’re gay.
Susbauer’s account of his dismissal, as posted on Facebook.
Stefan Susbauer was until recently general manager of the Chinese subsidiary of German-American PR firm OSK. Susbauer is currently suing OSK in Germany over his recent dismissal from the firm which he claims is an example of anti-gay discrimination.
According to Susbauer’s account, he was fired after Chinese VP of Corporate Communications for Daimler AG (which owns Mercedes-Benz), Anthea Wang, expressed her disapproval of Susbauer’s lifestyle (Susbauer is gay) and threatened to terminate the contract with OSK in China if Susbauer wasn’t removed from the account.
OSK apparently agreed with Wang that Susbauer’s lifestyle “[violates] Chinese moral values”. As evidence, OSK highlighted a photo (above) Susbauer had shared with his colleagues, taken during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at a VIP event thrown by Toni & Guy, the global hairdressing company. The photo depicts four shirtless men, probably topless waiters judging from their bow ties and cuffs, and a fully clothed woman. Hardly risqué. Far more tame in fact, than the scantily-clad ‘booth babes‘ regularly used by car manufactures, including Mercedes-Benz, at car shows across China.
Stefan Susbauer. Image credit: Dominik Sommerfeld.
According to Susbauer however, the photo was enough for OSK to decide that he’d provoked Wang’s aversion by being
too gay indiscreet. While he admitted showing the photo around the office, Susbauer told German tabloid Bild-Zeitung that it was being used as an excuse to get rid of him: “My boss said, earlier, that the Chinese Head of Communications at Daimler did not want to work with me because I was gay,” he said, “[My boss said] he would have no other choice but to fire me.”
Susbauer joined the Chinese subsidiary of OSK in Beijing in 2011, and was immediately assigned to the Daimler account. He claims that Wang disliked him from the beginning. “She talked little with me, never giving me a hand. I noticed straight away that she had something against me, I mentioned this to my boss in Cologne,” Susbauer told Bild-Zeitung.
In a letter to OSK, Wang wrote that Susbauer shared photos with colleagues at Daimler of a “gay party”, which allegedly “deeply troubled” Chinese employees. Susbauer believes his sexuality is the true reason for his dismissal, and the photo is only an excuse to avoid a discrimination lawsuit. He called the photo “harmless”. Discrimination on the grounds of sexuality is illegal in Germany.
In a statement to Bild-Zeitung, OSK CEO Michael Kemme would only say “We have finished working with Mr Susbauer. I cannot comment on this matter until after the trial.”
Update 16.00 CST: OSK sent us the following official statement on Susbauer’s dismissal.
The dismissal of Stefan Susbauer as General Manager of OSK Public Relations Consulting (Beijing) CO., Ltd. was due to his – unprofessional attitude, lack of leadership skills, and pursuit of personal activities during working time, among others.
These main factors resulted in a loss of respect from the team Mr. Susbauer was tasked to lead, rendering Stefan Susbauer unable to perform his duties as General Manager. For these reasons, Mr. Susbauer was dismissed.
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.
We at OSK Beijing consist of an international team of young professionals from six countries. Given our diverse, open working environment, we were shocked to learn of Mr. Susbauer’s baseless accusations of discrimination that are categorically false. We are even more shocked that he is using a picture (seen above) from his own personal phone to make up such false accusations.
We are further dismayed that Mr. Susbauer has chosen to misuse the media in a smear campaign specifically aimed at damaging ours and our clients’ reputation, not to mention our client relations by spreading false allegations – despite yesterday having his case against OSK in a German court of law being dismissed.
Oliver Schrott, President of Oliver Schrott Kommunikation, has further testified under oath in a sworn statement that in no way was Stefan Susbauer dismissed because of his sexuality, and the entire OSK family, including OSK Beijing, stands behind the truth in his statement.
Update March 02: The decision given by the German court in dismissing the case (this was provided to us by OSK but we have no reason to doubt its veracity):
1. It is stated that the contractual relations of the two parties were ended through the dismissal from April 27th, 2012 by May 31st, 2012
2. The defendant (OSK) is ordered to pay Euro 30.000 to the plaintiff including interest of 5% over the base interest since February 6th, 2013 (an outstanding payment to Mr. Susbauer already agreed to by both parties beforehand)
3. All other claims are dismissed.
4. The costs for the legal dispute need to be borne by the plaintiff by 76% and by 24% by the defendant.
5. Value in litigation: Euro 165.000