Man wins £346,000 after being sacked when surprise party sparked panic attack

Colleagues are said to have wished Kevin Berling happy birthday and put up a banner in the break room (Picture: Getty Images)

A man has been given a £346,000 payout after colleagues threw a birthday party against his wishes, sparking a panic attack.

Bosses accused Kevin Berling of becoming violent when he was asked about why he walked out of the celebrations to go and have lunch on his own in his car at Gravity Diagnostics in Covington, Kentucky.

He told them he had expressly requested nothing be done for his birthday on August 7, 2019. However, colleagues put up a banner and wished him happy birthday.

Kevin said that the incident reminded him of his parents divorce so he left the building and had a panic attack in his car.

The following day, a meeting was held with his supervisor and another colleague to discuss what had happened.

John Maley, a lawyer for the firm, said that at that meeting Kevin ‘lashed out with body language of clenched fists, clenched teeth, red faced’, sparking fear in the two co-workers.

The hearing at Kenton County Court led to Kevin being given a $450,000 payout (Picture: Getty Images)

He also accused him of ‘shaking and verbally demanding [the supervisor] “stop talking and be quiet” while glaring across the table’.

Kevin lost his job on August 11, 2019, as a result.

However, his lawyer, Tony Bucher, told the that there ‘was absolutely no evidence’ of him posing a threat to anyone at Gravity which meant he should be sacked.

He said: ‘He had a panic attack. That is all.’

Kevin successfully sued for disability discrimination and sait that he had been confronted at a second meeting and was told he was ‘being a little girl’.

He suggested that the company unfairly retaliated against him for asking not to have a birthday party and not accommodating the request.

Mr Bucher said: ‘Because representatives from Gravity Diagnostics did not understand his panic response and were unnerved by his response, they assumed he was a threat.

‘Assuming that people with mental health issues are dangerous without any evidence of any violent behaviour is discriminatory.’

A judge ruled that Mr Berling should get $150,000 for the loss of income and $300,000 for the humiliation, loss of self-esteem and suffering caused.

The firm, which denies any discrimination, says it had never been informed of the employee’s anxiety problems, Mr Maley claimed.

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