I told my bosses not to celebrate my birthday

A KENTUCKY man who asked his employers not to throw him a birthday party because of his anxiety has successfully sued the company after they surprised him – and then fired him after he suffered a panic attack.

Plaintiff Kevin Berling claims he lost his job in 2019 just days after the birthday party incident because his bosses were concerned he was “angry,” according to the lawsuit he filed.

Kevin Berling has been awarded $450,000 after winning the lawsuit against the company that threw him a surprise birthday party at his request (file image)


Kevin Berling has been awarded $450,000 after winning the lawsuit against the company that threw him a surprise birthday party at his request (file image)Photo credit: Getty

Court documents show that on March 31, 2022, a jury awarded Berling $450,000 after concluding that Berling suffered an “adverse employment lawsuit” from Gravity Diagnostics due to his intellectual disability. NBC News reported.

In August 2019, Berling told his office manager that he didn’t want to celebrate his office-traditional birthday because it would trigger a panic attack.

At that point, he had been with the company for ten months.

The office manager did not remember his request, and the company surprised him with a celebration in the canteen on August 7, 2019.

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The suit states that Berling had a panic attack and abruptly left the party to spend the rest of his lunch in his car.

He then texted the manager regarding his request which was not honored.

The lawsuit states that Berling was “confronted and criticized” at a gathering a day later for his reaction to the event.

Berling claims the meeting sparked another attack, and then his bosses told him to go over the weekend.

Berling says he was subsequently fired over the week’s events, and company executives said they were concerned he would become “angry and possibly violent”. Local 12 reports.

Berling’s attorney, Tony Bucher, told Local 12 that company executives “started giving him a pretty rough time for his reaction to the birthday party – actually accusing him of stealing the joy of his colleagues.”

The jury sided with the plaintiff and ultimately decided to award Berling $450,000, including $120,000 in lost wages and benefits, $30,000 in future lost wages and benefits, and $300,000 in mental distress.

Founder and COO of Gravity Diagnostics, Julie Brazil, said Link NKY that the judgment reflects neither facts nor the company’s employer rights.

Brazil said its staff “did exactly what they were supposed to do” given the situation.

“My staff de-escalated the situation to get the plaintiff out of the building as quickly as possible while depriving him of access to the building, alerting me and sending out security reminders to ensure he could not enter the building,” Brazil told LinkNKY.

She explained that workplace violence is on the rise, claiming “my co-workers were the victims, not the plaintiff, in this case.”

Berling’s lawyer, however, claimed that his client posed no real threat to his bosses.

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“I think the importance for employers is that they need to understand that they shouldn’t be making assumptions about people with mental health problems,” Berling’s attorney, Tony Bucher, said in a statement.

“Kevin was an exceptional employee who went above and beyond for his employer and if they had taken a step back it would have been clear he posed no threat at all.”

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