A Kentucky man was awarded $450,000 last month after being fired for having a panic attack caused by an unwanted office birthday party.
According to New York Times, Kevin Berling worked at Gravity Diagnostics, a medical laboratory. The former employee told his manager he did not want a birthday party because of an anxiety disorder. Unfortunately, they ignored Berling’s request, and his colleagues planned the birthday party anyway. Once he got word of the celebration that was to happen in the break room during lunch, he decided to sit in his car at that time and not participate.
The next day, Berling’s managers confronted him about his “somber behavior” in response to the efforts of his colleagues, and as a result, he had a panic attack. Three days later, the company fired Kevin Berlin in an email that stated he was a threat to his co-workers and their safety.
Employee Wins $450K In Lawsuit After Office Party Gave Him Anxiety
A jury awarded Berling $450,000. $300,000 was for emotional stress; $120,000 was for back wages and benefits, and $30,000 was for front pay after suing the company. In the 2019 court filing, the company stated they fired Berling because he was “violent” in a meeting. Berlin allegedly “scared” supervisors when they sent him home for the day. He was told he wasn’t allowed to return.
A lawyer for Gravity Diagnostics, John Maley, stated the company would appeal the verdict. Maley also noted that a juror violated a court order and received information outside the trial.
The New York Times also reports that Mr. Maley said the case had not met the standard for a disability claim because Mr. Berling had never disclosed his anxiety disorder.
Bisma Anwar, a mental health counselor from Talkspace, spoke to NY Times about social pressures on a job.
“Social anxiety can also get triggered in the workplace when interacting with managers and co-workers becomes expected,” Ms. Anwar said. “If an employee is uncomfortable and feels anxious by having a birthday party in their honor. Or taking part in a celebration for others, then they should be allowed to opt-out from it.”
At this time, the judge hasn’t entered the verdict for the case, per LINK NKY.