A Kentucky man was recently awarded $450,000 after being fired for having a panic attack caused by an unwanted office birthday party.
According to NY Times, Kevin Berling worked at Gravity Diagnostics, a medical laboratory, when the former employee told his manager he did not want a birthday party because of an anxiety disorder.
Despite Berling’s request, 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, Berling was fired in an email that stated he was a threat to his co-workers and their safety.
In response to the 2019 lawsuit, the company stated they fired Berling because he was “violent” in a meeting and scared supervisors when he was sent home for the day, while also being 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:
Mr. Maley said that the case had not met the standard for a disability claim because Mr. Berling had never disclosed his anxiety disorder to the company and had not met the legal threshold to qualify as having a disability.
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.
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