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Jury Awards $450k to Employee After Birthday Party Panic Attack


A Kentucky jury on March 31 awarded $450,000 to a plaintiff in a disability discrimination and retaliation lawsuit stemming from an incident involving an office birthday party.

In 2019, plaintiff Kevin Berling informed his manager at Gravity Diagnostics – for whom Berling worked for 10 months at the time – not to hold an officer birthday celebration for him. Berling revealed to his boss that doing so may cause him immense stress and possibly even a panic attack.

According to the lawsuit Berling would later file, the company’s office manager forgot his request and held a party. As Berling warned, the occasion caused him to suffer a panic attack. He left the scene and finished his lunch in his car, texting his manager that he was upset the company failed to accommodate his request.

The following day, Berling’s bosses held a meeting with him the following day to discuss the incident.

Berling’s lawsuit states he was chastised for his behavior, which included remarks such as that he was “stealing his co-workers’ joy” and that he was “being a little girl.” This meeting caused Berling to suffer a subsequent panic attack, and he was fired days later over the weekend.

Disability Discrimination & Retaliation

Berling’s lawsuit against his former employer focused on the company’s discrimination against his disability and subsequent retaliation against it. Berling’s attorney, Tony Bucher, told Link NKY that his client’s employer made assumptions about the nature of Berling’s behavior based on his disability, not any evidence that he was violent or posed a threat to anyone in the office.

Although Gravity Diagnostics argued Berling was fired for violating its policy against workplace violence, the argument didn’t convince a jury. In the end, Berling was awarded $300,000 for emotional stress, $120,000 for back pay and benefits, and $30,000 for front pay.

Are You Facing Discrimination at Work?

Although Berling’s lawsuit occurred in Kentucky, employees in California who’ve experienced similar situations at work can also fight for compensation. This is especially true if an employee is experiencing a violation of their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

If you believe your employer has ignored, disregarded, or even retaliated against you because of your disability, you can fight back with legal action. Learn more about how you can take a stand against disability discrimination by speaking with one of our qualified attorneys about your situation.

Schedule a complimentary consultation with K2 Employment Law today by contacting us online.