Kentucky man’s birthday surprise costs employer $450,000 after adverse reaction

A Kentucky man has been awarded $450,000 in a lawsuit against his former employer after the company threw a surprise birthday party that left him with a panic attack.

The man, Kevin Berling, suffers from anxiety and panic attacks and had asked Gravity Diagnostics not to throw him a surprise birthday party, as was the custom for other employees.

When his co-workers threw him a party anyway, Berling suffered a panic attack that soured his relationship with the company, CNBC reported Saturday.

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Berling was called in for a meeting the following day, where his superiors “criticized” him for his handling of the party, leading to another panic attack.

“At this point, he starts using other coping techniques that he’s been working on for years with his therapist,” Berling’s attorney, Tony Bucher, told Link NKY. “The way he described it was that he started hugging and asking them to please stop.”

Berling was then sent home for the rest of the week and received a letter the following Monday informing him that he had been fired. Berling sued the company for disability-related discrimination and retaliation, according to CNBC.

However, Gravity Diagnostics claimed that Berling posed a threat to his colleagues during the incident. Founder and COO Julie Brazil said other employees had to calm Berling down and escort her out of the building after the party.

“My employees defused the situation to get the applicant out of the building as quickly as possible while removing his access to the building, alerting me and sending security reminders to ensure he could not access the building. , which is exactly what they were supposed to do,” she told Link.

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Berling’s attorney, Tony Bucher, argued that Berling had never exhibited violent tendencies and that a panic attack did not make someone a danger to others.

“Basically the argument was that he was fired for having a panic attack,” Bucher told Link. “They assumed he was dangerous based on his disability and not on any evidence that he was violent.”

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