Man with anxiety issues wins $450,000 after unwanted office birthday party

Following the event, which led to a panic attack, the man was accused of stealing the joy of his co-workers

Kevin Berling, from Kentucky, US, has won $450,000 after being thrown an unwanted office birthday party. Getty Images
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A US man has won a $450,000 lawsuit after his company hosted a surprise birthday party despite him warning that it would aggravate his anxiety disorder.

Kevin Berling, from Kentucky, says that the 2019 party given by Gravity Diagnostics caused him a series of panic attacks.

Berling had worked for the company for 10 months at the time of his birthday on August 7, 2019.

Celebrations are a standard practice at Gravity Diagnostics, according to a CBS News report. However, Berling asked for his birthday not to be celebrated, a request that was forgotten by the office manager, according to the lawsuit.

The party triggered a panic attack, which led to Berling leaving the office and finishing his lunch in his car.

The following day, Berling was accused of "stealing his co-workers' joy" and "being a little girl" in a meeting, which prompted another panic attack. He was sent home on August 8 and 9, then on August 11, Berling was fired by Gravity Diagnostics on the grounds of workplace safety.

Berling's lawsuit alleged that he had been discriminated against because of a disability.

Julie Brazil, chief operating officer at Gravity Diagnostics, told Link NKY that Berling had breached a "workplace violence policy".

"My employees were the victims in this case, not the plaintiff."

Berling's lawyer Tony Bucher said assuming that people with mental health issues are dangerous without any evidence of any violent behaviour was discriminatory.

"[My client] had a panic attack. That is all. And, because representatives from Gravity Diagnostics did not understand his panic response and were unnerved by his response, they assumed he was a threat," he told the BBC.

The two-day trial took place in March. Berling was awarded $450,000, made up of $300,000 for emotional distress and $150,000 in lost wages.

Updated: April 19, 2022, 9:41 AM