Fired Gay HIV+ Regional Manager Sues Fashion Designer Philipp Plein for Discrimination

by Kevin Schattenkirk

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday February 11, 2021

A former employee is suing Swiss fashion designer Philipp Plein for wrongful termination because he is gay and living with HIV, Out reports.

Amro Alsoleibi, who was a regional manager for Plein stores in New York City for over a year, alleges that Plein was outspokenly homophobic, telling employees to stop behaviors he deemed "too gay." Plein also allegedly instructed store managers, "don't hire gays." Alsoleibi also said that Plein once told him to "stop moving your hips like a gay person." After telling the fashion designer such comments are offensive, Alsoleibi said Plein continued to make similarly homophobic remarks.

In his complaint, Alsoleibi said "[Plein] frequently affirmed and fostered the macho and toxic masculinity image of his business. He was very clear that this preference was not just for business branding, but also that all managers and employees must fit a certain stereotype in order to work for him."

Apparently, such comments extended to other LGBTQ employees, with Plein telling a gay stock clerk he "cannot be too gay" to work in his store because the male clientele are "100 percent heterosexual." Another gay employee alleged that Plein told him "if you are too gay, you are unwelcome."

After raising concerns through company channels about Plein's homophobic comments, Alsoleibi said he received a letter warning him about his performance as regional manager, which he believed was "pretext" for his 2019 firing. Women's Wear Daily notes that during Alsoleibi's brief tenure, stores in his region earned nearly $12 million in annual sales.

Prior to being fired, Alsoleibi said he was denied his request to take time off to visit his dying father in Syria — a right, as Out notes, that falls under New York's Paid Family Leave Act. The company also canceled his health insurance, which compelled him to disclose his HIV status. When the company reinstated his health insurance, Alsoleibi said they "intrusively" monitored and made unfair "assumptions of his health," which prevented him from the duties of his role as regional manager, such as traveling.

Alsoleibi said his clothing allowance was revoked without explanation, and he was no longer invited to take part in meetings, dealings, and other work-related engagements affiliated with his management position.

As Out notes, people with HIV are protected from discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodation, and more by disability provisions in the New York State Human Rights Law — which provides more expansive protections for those with HIV than Federal Law.

The complaint concludes, "Alsoleibi was terminated as a direct result of his sexual orientation and HIV-positive status and was in retaliation for his multiple complaints about defendants' unlawful employment policies and hostile work environment."

Plein issued a comment on social media, writing "sad to see how some people try to use their sexual orientation as a reason or as an excuse to achieve an advantage for their very own personal gain! I work in the fashion industry nearly since 20 years ! I never ever had an issue with any accusations related to discrimination of any kind ! I worked from the very beginning with people of all genders and sexual orientations! For many years people believed I would be homosexual.......some stil believe I am.......I never did anything to justify the opposite .......just because there is nothing bad about it ! I don't judge people on their heritage or sexuality! In this particular case the accuser was dismissed from his job because of poor performance and NOTHING else! It's sad to see how people act nowadays ! Once for all I LOVE GAYS , I LOVE LESBIANS, I LOVE TRANSSEXUALS, I LOVE EVERYBODY no matter how they choose to identify themselves !"

Kevin Schattenkirk is an ethnomusicologist and pop music aficionado.