The 29-year-old lab technician man made it clear to his employer that he did not want to celebrate his birthday. Unfortunately, somewhere along the line there was a communication breakdown, and his company threw him a party. The 29-year-old sued his former employer alleging disability discrimination and retaliation. According to the lawsuit, the man stated that a celebration in the office would be bring back bad childhood memories surrounding his parents’ divorce and bring up a great source of stress.
What should have been a simple request ended with a court case that had the jury awarding Kevin Berling, who had been fired from his job, $450,000. On August 2, 2019, the 29-year-old lab technician at Gravity Diagnostics in Kentucky, informed his office manager that he did not want to celebrate his birthday in the office, the New York Post reports.
According to his lawsuit, Gravity Diagnostics had a history of throwing birthday parties in the office for their employees.
Berling, who has anxiety disorder and deals with panic attacks, stated that a celebration in the office would be bring back bad childhood memories surrounding his parents’ divorce and bring up a “great source of stress.”
On his birthday, August 7, the company him a celebration. When he discovered the party was for him it triggered a panic attack. Berling immediately left the office and went to his vehicle for his lunch break. He texted his manager to let them know he was upset about not honoring his request.
The following day Berling was called into a meeting where he was confronted and criticized for his reaction to the party.
According to BBC, the confrontation reportedly triggered another panic attack. Few days later, he received an email from his company stating he had been fired due to the events of the prior week.
According to the founder and Chief Operating Office, Julie Brazil, the 29-year-old man was fired due to violating the company’s workplace violence policy.
But, Tony Bucher, Berling’s lawyer claims that his client was not violent and stated that he was using coping skills to remain calm.
Tony Bucher told Local 12: “They started giving him a pretty hard time for his response to the birthday celebration, actually accusing him of stealing his co-workers’ joy.”
The 29-year-old sued his former employer alleging disability discrimination and retaliation. Following a two-day trial in March 2022, a jury awarded Berling $450,000: $300,000 for emotional distress and $150,000 in lost wages.
Berling’s attorney, Tony Bucher, also said: “This may sound cliche to say that the money was really secondary in this thing. It was a big step for someone who doesn’t like that kind of attention to stand up in front of 12 jurors and stand up for himself.”
The attorney also said that Berling is doing well but suffered from more attacks after the incident and is still in therapy. He adds Berling had been a model employee and missed out on a huge opportunity as Gravity has seen massive growth with its COVID-19 testing throughout Kentucky, FOX 17 reports.