Jury awards man $450,000 for unwanted work birthday party

Office birthday celebrations are, at best, awkward affairs for everyone. But for a Kentucky man who suffers from anxiety disorder, an unwanted celebration has resulted in a sizable windfall.

A jury has awarded Kevin Berling $450,000 after his employer ignored his request to not celebrate his birthday, even after he informed them it would trigger a panic attack.

The suit was originally filed in 2019. The company, Gravity Diagnostics, threw a surprise lunch for Berling on August 7, after he had informed his office manager that he did not want one, as it could aggravate his anxiety disorder. Berling became upset, to the point of having to leave and finish lunch in his car, he said in his suit.

A day after the surprise party, Berling was called into a meeting to discuss his reaction. He said he was “criticized” for the way he acted and “this confrontation triggered another panic attack.”

He was sent home and told not to return that week. On Sunday, August 11, the suit claims, he was sent a termination letter which cited “the events of the previous week”.

The jury in the case found he suffered an “adverse employment action” because of his anxiety disorder and awarded him the $450,000 on March 31.

The founder of Gravity Diagnostics, Julie Brazil, said in a statement to northern Kentucky news website Link NKY, that the termination was due to a “workplace violence policy” and the company “de-escalated 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.”

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