Man wins £350,000 lawsuit after his employer threw him a birthday party he didn't want

19 April 2022, 12:37 | Updated: 19 April 2022, 16:12

Kevin Berling asked his employers to not throw him a birthday party in the office, but they did it anyway
Kevin Berling asked his employers to not throw him a birthday party in the office, but they did it anyway. Picture: Getty/Google Maps
Alice Dear

By Alice Dear

The man, who suffers from anxiety, told his former employer he did not want a birthday party as he can experience panic attacks if made the centre of attention.

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A man from Kentucky in the US has won a lawsuit against his former employer after they threw him a birthday party he specifically asked them not to.

Kevin Berling worked from medical testing company Gravity Diagnostics in 2019 when a party thrown by his colleagues and supervisors caused him to have a panic attack.

The former employee suffers from anxiety and told his employer that he did not want a party in the office as he can have panic attacks if made the centre of attention.

However, staff say they forgot this request and went on to throw Kevin a birthday party anyway.

Kevin was working at Gravity Diagnostics in 2019 when an office birthday party caused him to have a panic attack
Kevin was working at Gravity Diagnostics in 2019 when an office birthday party caused him to have a panic attack. Picture: Google Maps

On the day of the party, Kevin decided to eat his lunch in his car instead of attending and ended up experiencing a panic attack.

The following day, the lawsuit says Kevin was bought into a meeting at Gravity Diagnostics where he was "confronted and criticised" for his reaction to the party.

According to reports from Courier Journal, the man was "chastised" for "stealing his co-workers'" joy and was called a "little girl."

The company claim that during this meeting, Kevin became "very red", closed his eyes, clenched his fists and "commanded silence, while shaking".

Kevin Berling, on the other hand, argued that the meeting caused a second panic attack and that while he was able to calm himself, he was told to go home because he was making his supervisors feel "uncomfortable".

He was later fired by the company’s chief operating officer, Julie Brazil, who cited a zero-tolerance policy for employees who make other workers feel “physically threatened” and unsafe in the workplace.

The man won the lawsuit following a two-day trial and 90 minutes of deliberation between the jury.

He was awarded $450,000 in damages, made up of $300,000 for "emotional distress" and $150,000 for "lost wages".

Gravity Diagnostics' attorney, Katherine Kennedy, said they continue to deny liability and are pursuing their options following the trail.

The company’s founder and chief operating officer Julie Brazil said in an email to the Courier Journal: “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.”

She added that her employees, and not Kevin Berling, were the victims in the case.

However, many people online have shown support towards Berling's story.

One person commented on Twitter: "How much would it have cost @GravityCLIALab to honour the man's wishes and not hold the party? $0. Showing respect literally costs you nothing."

Another wrote: "Just learn to respect people’s boundaries. You don’t have to understand it or like it, but you should honour their wishes about how they want to be treated."

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