Man Wins $450,000 in Lawsuit Against Employer Who Threw Him Unwanted Birthday Party
A man was awarded $450,000 after suing his former employer because his co-workers threw him a birthday party that caused him to have a panic attack.
Kevin Berling was fired from his position at Gravity Diagnostics in 2019 after reportedly experiencing two panic attacks on the job, according to the New York Times.
The first was a result of the aforementioned birthday party, which his co-workers threw. His attorney Tony Bucher told Link NKY that he specifically asked the company to not throw him a party because he has anxiety. Although the person responsible for planning the celebration agreed, Bucher alleges they apparently forgot.
Berling subsequently had a panic attack and ate lunch in his car once he found out about the party plans.
He reportedly experienced a second attack after he was called in for a meeting with superiors who reprimanded him for his response. Berling reportedly made fists and gestured as though he was hugging himself. He also told the other people in the meeting to stop speaking, which was interpreted as a violent response.
Bucher claims Berling's actions were "coping techniques that he’s worked on for years with his therapist."
The employee was sent home for the day. He was fired via email shortly after and sued Gravity Diagnostics the following month.
“Basically what the argument was is he was fired for having a panic attack,” Bucher told Link NKY. “They made assumptions that he was dangerous based off of his disability and not off of any evidence that he was violent.”
The court case was decided in March 2022. The jury agreed that Berling faced discrimination as a result of his disability. He was awarded $450,000 in damages, $150,000 of which was related to pay and benefits that he lost out on. The remainder was awarded due to emotional damages he suffered as a result of the firing.
Link NKY notes that Gravity Diagnostics plans to challenge the ruling.
Julie Brazil, the company's founder and COO, claims the company's response to Berling was appropriate due to the risk of workplace violence. Additionally, the New York Times reports that the company was reportedly unaware of Berling's anxiety disorder.
Brazil also alleges that a member of the jury might have acted inappropriately during the trial.