Kentucky Jury Awards Man $450,000 Following Firing Over Unwanted Birthday Celebration

© Photo : PixabayBirthday cake
Birthday cake - Sputnik International, 1920, 19.04.2022
A Kentucky jury awarded Kevin Berling $450,000 after he sued his employer for throwing him a birthday party he had explicitly asked not to have.
Berling suffers from an anxiety disorder and panic attacks and had requested that the company, Gravity Diagnostics, not celebrate his birthday, as it normally does for its employees. Berling said that birthday celebrations reminded him of his parents' divorce during his childhood and exacerbated his mental health struggles.
On August 9, 2019, Berling was surprised with a birthday celebration he had asked to be skipped. His manager’s mistake led to him suffering a panic attack and him spending his lunch break in his car, according to the lawsuit.
The next day, Berling was brought into a meeting with his superiors to discuss the incident. Instead of an apology, he was berated, according to the lawsuit. Berling alleges that his manager claimed he had stolen his co-workers' joy and was “being a little girl.”
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The incident sparked another panic attack, and Berling was fired three days later via email. The company claims it was worried that Berling would become violent.
Berling’s suit alleges that Gravity Diagnostics discriminated against him based on a disability and retaliated against him for asking for accommodations. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers must make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities.
After a two-day trial, the jury awarded Berling $300,000 for emotional distress and $150,000 for lost wages. Katherine Kennedy, an attorney for Gravity Diagnostics, said the company denies any liability and will be pursuing its post-verdict options.
The company’s CEO and founder, Julie Brazil, claims that her employees, and not Berling, are the real victims. In an email statement she defended her company’s actions, saying, "With ever-increasing incidents of workplace violence, this verdict sets a very dangerous precedent for employers and most importantly employees that unless physical violence actually occurs, workplace violence is acceptable."
According to Berling’s lawyer, Tony Bucher, upon meeting Berling the suggestion that he was a violent threat was readily dismissed.
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