Sometimes it pays to be the life of the party – even when you don’t want to be.
A Kentucky man was awarded $450,000 after suing over a birthday party, held in his honor.
In August 2019, Kevin Berling of Kenton County, Kentucky, asked the office manager at his company, Gravity Diagnostics, to not throw an office birthday party, as was the firm’s custom.
When Berling’s birthday arrived a few days later, a party was planned for him in the company breakroom.
Berling said he had asked to forgo the party because he has anxiety disorder and becoming the center of attention causes him “great stress,” his lawsuit said. When he learned the party was about to go down, happened, Berling fled to his car in the parking lot.
The next day he was called in to discuss the situation with a pair of executives. Berling had another panic attack and was sent home for two days.
Two days after that he was fired. The company maintained that it had to de-escalate the situation and get Berling out of the building as quickly as possible, which indicated they considered him a safety risk. Berling’s lawyer agreed, saying it was possible he could have become violent during the follow-up meeting.
Berling subsequently sued, and eventually, the case went to trial over a claim based on disability discrimination. The two-day trial ended with the jury agreeing with Berling.
The jury’s award included “$300,000 for past, present and future mental pain and suffering, mental anguish, embarrassment, humiliation, mortification, and loss of self-esteem,” $120,000 in lost wages and benefits, and an additional $30,000 in lost future benefits and wages.
The company plans to appeal.