A man from Kentucky, US, was awarded $450,000 in compensation after he complained against his former company for throwing a surprise birthday party for him.
Kevin Berling, who was working as a lab technician at Gravity Diagnostics in Covington, claimed in his petition that the unwanted birthday party in 2019 gave him anxiety and panic attacks, BBC reported.
The 29-year-old accused the company of bais as he had urged the office manager not to throw a birthday party for him when he first joined in 2018.
Despite Berling's request, the company, which conducts COVID-19 tests, threw him a surprise party in August, triggering a panic attack. He then quickly left the party, practised breathing exercises and finished his lunch in his car.
The following day, Berling was “confronted and criticised” at a meeting and was accused of “stealing his co-workers joy” and “being a little girl”, the lawsuit claimed.
The meeting again triggered a second panic attack, after which the firm sent the lab technician home. Berling even apologised for having a panic attack.
However, a few days later, he claimed to have received an email from the company “informing him that he was being terminated because of the events of the previous week”.
The sacked worker then subsequently filed a lawsuit in Kenton County, seeking damages and compensation for lost income.
After the trial at the end of March, the jury awarded Berling $450,000, including $300,000 for emotional distress and $150,000 in lost wages.
In a statement, Kenton circuit court judge Patricia Summe said that Berling was able to perform the essential functions of his job with or without reasonable accommodations but suffered an adverse employment action because of that disability, The Guardian reported.
The company, however, has denied any wrongdoing.
Gravity Diagnostics’s chief operating officer Julie Brazil told local news outlet Link NKY that the firm stands by its decision to terminate Berling, who she said violated a “workplace violence policy”.
Brazil, in fact, claimed that her employees were the real victims in this case, adding that the firm is mulling to file an appeal against the verdict.
(With inputs from agencies)