Kentucky Man Wins $450K for Being Fired After Birthday Party He Didn't Want

A jury sided with Kevin Berling, who claimed he was unjustly terminated after a panic attack

Office birthday party
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A man in Kentucky was awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars last month in a legal battle against his employer, whom a jury determined unjustly terminated him for being upset over an office birthday party.

Kevin Berling had requested that his employer, Gravity Diagnostics, not throw him a birthday party in 2019 due to his anxiety disorder, Berling's lawyer, Tony Bucher, told ABC affiliate WCPO.

However, "the person who was responsible for the birthday parties who he talked to flat out forgot about his request," Bucher said.

The party was thrown anyway, eventually leading to Berling suffering a panic attack, he claimed.

His lawyer told WCPO that Berling ran out to his car to calm down during the party before going back upstairs to continue the workday.

But the next day, Berling's managers at Gravity Diagnostics called him into a meeting to discuss the incident, only for leadership to chastise him, resulting in another panic attack, Bucher told WCPO.

"According to my client, she started reading him the riot act and accused him of stealing other coworkers' joy," Bucher told WCPO of one manager's reaction.

The New York Times reported that Berling was terminated three days later in an email suggesting that Berling was a danger to his co-workers. Gravity Diagnostics said Berling was "violent" during the meeting and made supervisors fear for their safety, prompting them to send Berling home for the day and confiscate his key fob, according to a court filing, per the NYT.

Berling sued his former employer for disability discrimination a month following the ordeal in September 2019, the NYT reported. A jury reached a verdict on March 31 of this year, finding that Berling experienced an adverse employment action because of his disability.

The jury awarded Berling $150,000 for lost wages and benefits and an additional $300,000 for suffering, embarrassment and loss of self-esteem, the NYT reported. The judge in the case has reportedly not yet entered a judgement regarding the verdict.

Gravity Diagnostics company founder and COO Julie Brazil told WCPO the verdict does not represent the facts and the company plans to challenge it based on "discovery of juror misconduct violating trial judge's orders, and then an appeal if necessary."

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"My employees deescalated the situation to get the plaintiff out of the building as quickly as possible while removing his access to the building, alerting me and sending out security reminders to ensure he could not access the building, which is exactly what they were supposed to do," Brazil told WCPO.

"As an employer who puts our employee safety first, we have a zero-tolerance policy and we stand by our decision to terminate the plaintiff for his violation of our workplace violence policy," Brazil added, per the news station. "My employees were the victims in this case, not the plaintiff."

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