The man told the employer not to celebrate his birthday but they did so against his wishes.
A man from Kentucky received $450,000 in a lawsuit against his former employer who threw him a surprise birthday party despite his request not to celebrate due to his anxiety disorder. Back in August 2019, 29-year-old Kevin Berling was working as a lab technician at Gravity Diagnostics in Covington when the company hosted the celebration during lunchtime. According to Tony Bucher, Berling’s attorney, “the person who was responsible for the birthday parties who he talked to flat-out forgot about his request." The person who scheduled the party, Berling said, “didn’t do it to be mean. She said she would accommodate [Berling’s request] and she just forgot,” reports The Guardian. Berling said he subsequently suffered a panic attack from the unwanted party.
Man wins $450K lawsuit after surprise work birthday party triggers panic attack https://t.co/j6ysSMwk5d pic.twitter.com/MXbhDrSlBs— New York Post (@nypost) April 18, 2022
He then went to his car and practiced breathing techniques. He also texted his manager expressing his dismay over his request being ignored. Berling was “confronted and criticized” the next day for his reaction. According to the lawsuit, “this confrontation triggered another panic attack.” “Managers started giving him a hard time for his response to the birthday celebrations,” Bucher told local TV news outlet WKRC. “They actually accused him of stealing his co-workers’ joy.”
Panic attacks are a serious medical issue, his office should have listened to his wishes. It’s not the office’s business if it’s your birthday.— Mary (@Maryx900) April 18, 2022
According to Berling’s lawsuit, “At the conclusion of this meeting and because plaintiff had a panic attack, plaintiff was sent home from work for the remainder of 8 and 9 August.” Bosses told him they were “worried about him being angry and possibly becoming violent.” He was later fired per the lawsuit, which said three days later he received an email from the company, “informing him that he was being terminated because of the events of the previous week."
After the incident, he subsequently filed a lawsuit seeking damages and compensation for lost income. Now, he has won $450,000, including “$120,000 in lost wages and benefits; $30,000 in future lost wages and benefits; and $300,000 for past, present, and future mental pain and suffering, mental anguish, embarrassment, humiliation, mortification, and loss of self-esteem.” Kenton circuit court judge Patricia Summe said Berling “was able to perform the essential functions of his job with or without reasonable accommodations” but “suffered an adverse employment action because of that disability.”
Don't throw parties for people who don't want them!!— dooppy 🐙 (@Dooppy) April 18, 2022
Man told employer not to celebrate his birthday. He was awarded $450,000 after unwanted party. https://t.co/9UmK1HVSd3 via @nbcnews
Julie Brazil, chief operating officer of Gravity Diagnostics claimed that the "employees were the victims in this case, not the plaintiff.” “As an employer who puts our employee safety first, we have a zero-tolerance policy and we stand by our decision to terminate the plaintiff for his violation of our workplace violence policy,” Brazil told Link NKY.
Gravity Diagnostics told The Post via a statement that the verdict was “improper,” and that the company would appeal. They added that they have a “commitment to zero tolerance for violence in the workplace” and that “employers are entitled to and indeed should take prompt action… in this era of workplace violence.” However, Berling’s attorney said that there was no chance of his client becoming violent and stated that he was just “using coping techniques to calm himself down” during both of his panic attacks.
My co-workers did this too, and I have horrible anxiety. Thankfully, another co-worker saw my reaction and quickly shooed people away. It’s horrible.— ksweet (@nutter8222) April 17, 2022