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Court awards P23 million in damages to employee who sued his company for throwing a birthday party for him

By NICK GARCIA Published Apr 15, 2022 6:08 pm

Who knew that birthday parties can be too costly? Not because of the treats and presents, mind you.

In Kentucky, an employee sued his former company after throwing a birthday party for him against his will, which he complained about and led to his termination. Taking the matter to court, he won and was awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages.

According to local television station WLKY's report, Kevin Berling informed his former manager from Gravity Diagnostics, a medical laboratory based in Covington, to not arrange a birthday party for him on Aug. 7 last year as it triggers his anxiety disorder.

Berling said "being the center of attention" causes him immense stress and leads to a panic attack, according to WLKY.

But on that fateful day, Gravity Diagnostics arranged for a lunchtime birthday party, anyway. Berling said the party triggered his panic attack, leading him to leave the office suddenly and have lunch in his car.

Through a text message, he asked his manager why his specific request wasn't honored, to which he was called into a meeting the very next day.

Berling said his boss "confronted and criticized" him for his reaction, triggering another panic attack in the process. He called to stop the meeting and was promptly sent home afterward.

He was terminated the following weekend "because of the events of the previous week."

Berling then sued the company on the grounds of disability discrimination and retaliation.

His lawsuit stated that because the company didn't accommodate his anxiety disorder, the birthday party and the events afterward caused him "to suffer from a loss of income and benefits and emotional distress and mental anxiety."

The case was already settled at the Kenton County Circuit Court, with judges siding with Berling as Gravity Diagnostics was found to have violated a local law that protects workers with disabilities from "adverse employment actions."

Berling was awarded a total of $450,000 (P23.49 million) in damages, $300,000 of which was for the emotional distress and $150,000 for lost wages.