Kevin Berling told a manager that an office party for him would cause him immense stress. The request was ignored. It later resulted in his firing.

 

Their Second Birthday
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Jury Awards $450,000 to Employee Who Declined Birthday Party

A Kentucky jury has awarded Berling $450,000 after he asked them not to celebrate his birthday at work, but did anyway.

His manager at Gravity Diagnostics in Covington (Kentucky) was made aware that the party would cause Berling immense stress if it went forward. The company ignored his request, and held a celebration for Berling anyway. This caused him to suffer a panic attack. He went out to his car, calmed himself, and finished the workday.

Berling had reportedly told his supervisor that a birthday celebration would bring back bad childhood memories surrounding his parents’ divorce. The supervisor forgot to pass along his request, the company said.

According to the lawsuit, the following day, he suffered another panic attack when his supervisor chastised him for “stealing his co-workers” joy and “being a little girl.”

During the second panic attack, he began closing in and using short phrases. According to Berling's attorneys, his supervisors misunderstood and thought he was dangerous.

He was fired after the second panic attack.

How is this Illegal?

Berling alleged that the company discriminated against him based on a disability and retaliated against him for demanding a reasonable accommodation to it.

After a two-day trial, the jury awarded Berling $300,000 for emotional distress and $150,000 in lost wages.

What did the Company Have to Say?

Katherine Kennedy, an attorney for the company, says that the company denies any liability and is pursuing its post-trial options.

Julie Brazil, the company’s founder and chief operating officer, said in an email statement to the Courier Journal that her employees, not the plaintiff, were the victims. She also said that "with ever-increasing incidents of workplace violence, this verdict sets a very dangerous precedent for employers and most importantly employees that unless physical violence actually occurs, workplace violence is acceptable."

Tony Bucher, Berling's attorney, said that once the jury got to meet his client, it was clear to them that the company's claim that he was a threat was far-fetched.

 

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