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A Kentucky lab technician who lost his job after co-workers hosted an office birthday party he didn’t want has been awarded $450,000 after taking the matter to court.
Kevin Berling told Gravity Diagnostics – which employed him in 2018 – not to put on any celebrations, over concerns it would trigger his anxiety due to him being the centre of attention.
Yet Mr Berling’s request wasn’t respected, a party was held in August 2019, and the employee suffered a panic attack.
He had to spend his lunch hour in his car, according to the court filing.
He also experienced a panic attack the next day, when his supervisor allegedly accused him of “being a little girl” who was “stealing his co-workers’” joy.
His behaviour during the panic attacks was perceived by his employer as being angry and violent, so they fired him over the incidents a few days later.
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However Mr Berling’s attorney, Tony Bucher, said his client was not being violent but was instead doing what was necessary to calm himself down after the situation.
Mr Berling brought forward the case alleging disability discrimination and a failure of his employer to make reasonable accommodations.
His lawyers claim the dismissal meant the employee lost out on pay rises of up to 300 per cent following the company’s significant growth during the Covid-19 pandemic.
On Friday, a jury agreed unanimously with Mr Bergling’s arguments, awarding him the huge sum made up of $120,000 in lost wages and benefits and $30,000 in future wages.
The remaining $300,000 was given for “past, present and future mental pain and suffering, mental anguish, embarrassment, humiliation, mortification, and loss of self-esteem”.
Quite the unexpected birthday present, that.
Gravity Diagnostics – who could still appeal the ruling – have been approached for comment.
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