Jury Award $450,000 to Man Fired from Unwanted Birthday Party at Office

A Kentucky man who was fired days after suffering a panic attack over an unwanted birthday party at work was awarded $450,000 by a jury last month for his lost wages and emotional distress.

The man, Kevin Berling, had been working at the Gravity Diagnostics medical laboratory in Covington, Ky. for about 10 months, and according to one lawsuit, he asked the office manager not to throw him a birthday party because he had an anxiety disorder. It was filed in Kentucky’s Kenton County Circuit Court.

Mr. Berling’s lawyer, Tony Bucher, said the party was planned by other employees while the office manager was away, and the situation quickly spiraled out of control.

Mr. Berling had a panic attack after learning of the planned lunch celebration, which would include his colleagues’ birthday wishes and a banner adorning the break room. Mr. Berling preferred to spend his lunch break in his car instead.

Mr. Bucher said that the next day, Mr. Berling had a panic attack at a meeting with two supervisors, which confronted him about his “gloomy behavior”. He was fired three days later with an email suggesting that Mr. Berling posed a threat to the safety of his co-workers.

In a court filing, the company said it fired Mr. Berling for “violent” at the meeting and frightening the inspectors, sending him home for the day, taking his key fob, and saying that security personnel were not allowed. give back.

In September 2019, a month after the meeting, Mr. Berling sued the company for disability discrimination.

After a two-day trial, the jury reached a verdict on 31 March, concluding that Mr. Berling had faced an adverse employment case due to disability. Jurors awarded him $150,000 for lost wages and benefits and $300,000 for pain, shame and loss of self-esteem.

In the case, the judge has yet to reach a verdict on the reported decision. LINK by nkya local news site.

John Maley, attorney for Gravity Diagnostics, said Saturday that the company will file post-trial motions appealing the decision on legal grounds and alleging that a juror violated court orders to obtain information outside of the trial.

Mr Maley said the case did not meet the disability claim standard as Mr. Berling never disclosed his anxiety disorder to the company and did not meet the legal threshold to qualify as a disability.

Mr Maley said the company had the right to fire Mr Berling, a lab technician whose employment status was discretionary, meaning he could be fired for any legal reason, for clenching his fists, blushing and blushing. terrifying them, he ordered his superiors to be quiet at the meeting.

“At that moment, they were absolutely afraid of physical harm,” Julie Brazil, founder and chief operating officer of Gravity Diagnostics, said Saturday. “Both are still reeling from this today.”

Mr. Bucher said the reaction the company described was an attempt by Mr. Berling to calm himself during a panic attack after one of the supervisors criticized his reaction to the party.

Mr. Berling asked them to stop talking and used physical coping techniques, including a gesture Mr. Bucher described as having his fists closed but “around his chest, sort of closed, almost hugging himself”.

Mr. Berling was sent home for the rest of the working day and the next day. At home a few hours after the meeting, he texted one of the supervisors to apologize for the panic attack, according to the complaint.

Mr. Bucher said that prior to that week, Mr. Berling had received “outstanding” monthly reviews. The company said it has never received a negative review or received disciplinary action, according to court documents.

Mr. Bucher said that Mr. Berling is happy in his new job at the school and that although the frequency of panic attacks has increased since that week in 2019, it has gradually decreased.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorder in the United States, affecting an estimated 40 million adults in the country each year. Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Bisma AnwarIt’s a good idea for people with anxiety disorders and panic attacks to discuss these issues with a supervisor at work who can be a source of employee support, a mental health counselor for therapy app Talkspace said in an email. don’t fight.

Ms Anwar said that anxiety at work can be a result of social pressures as well as workload.

“Social anxiety in the workplace can also be triggered when interaction with managers and co-workers is expected,” Ms Anwar said. “If an employee is uncomfortable and feeling anxious about throwing a birthday party in their honor or attending a celebration for others, they should be allowed to opt out.”

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