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Employee Wins $450K After Suing Company For Firing Him After Throwing Birthday Party Against His Wishes

   DailyWire.com
Close-Up Of Birthday Cake On Table Against Turquoise Wall - stock photo Porapak Apichodilok / EyeEm via Getty Images
Porapak Apichodilok / EyeEm via Getty Images

A Kentucky man who had a panic attack and sought refuge in his car after his bosses threw him an unwelcome birthday party was awarded $450,000 after a jury found that the incident led to his unjust firing. 

Kevin Berling, who worked for Covington-based Gravity Diagnostics, had asked the office manager not to throw the party because he knew it would cause him stress, Tony Bucher, his lawyer, said in court documents obtained by KIRO 7. But the lunchtime celebration on Aug. 7, 2021 went ahead anyway, and when Berling found out, he had an anxiety attack. 

“The person who was responsible for the birthday parties who he talked to flat out forgot about his request,” said Bucher. “She didn’t do it to be mean. She said she would accommodate it and she just forgot.”

Berling fled the office and spent his lunch break in his car, trying to calm down by using breathing exercises, then returned to work, according to Link NKY. But the next day, he was called into a conference room and reprimanded, Bucher said.

“According to my client, [the office manager] started reading him the riot act and accused him of stealing other coworkers’ joy,” Bucher said.

The scolding prompted another panic attack, which, said Bucher.

“At this point, he starts employing other coping techniques that he’s worked on for years with his therapist,” Bucher said. “The way he described it is he started hugging himself and asked them to please stop.”

Berling was sent home immediately and then fired days later “because of the events of the previous week,” his lawyer said.

Berling sued Gravity Diagnostics, alleging disability discrimination and retaliation. A jury agreed with him on the strength of a Kentucky law that safeguards employees with a disability from “adverse employment actions.”

The award included $300,000 for emotional turmoil, $120,000 was for back wages and benefits, and an additional $30,000, Link NKY reported.

Gravity Diagnostics founder and Chief Operating Officer Julie Brazil said the company intends to challenge the verdict by claiming juror misconduct, and then appeal if necessary.

“My employees deescalated the situation to get the plaintiff out of the building as quickly as possible while removing his access to the building, alerting me and sending out security reminders to ensure he could not access the building, which is exactly what they were supposed to do,” Brazil said. “My employees were the victims in this case, not the plaintiff.”

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