Birthday party payout: Worker given $450,000 (£346,000) after unwanted do

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

An American man who claims to have suffered a panic attack after an unwanted office birthday party has been awarded £346,000.

Kevin Berling, who says he suffers from an anxiety disorder, was wished happy birthday by some colleagues in the break room in Kentucky, where he discovered a banner for the occasion.

That was despite warning bosses at a medical laboratory that he did not want any celebrations for his birthday on August 7, 2019, because it reminded him of the divorce of his parents, Kenton County Circuit Court documents show.  

But his employers Gravity Diagnostics, who are said to normally throw parties for their employees, said yesterday it would appeal against the $450,000 award, which followed Mr Berling being fired days after the incident.

He says the acknowledgement of his birthday led to him going to sit in his car to finish his lunch, where he said he had a panic attack.

The next day, during a meeting with his female supervisor and another colleague to discuss his behaviour, Mr Berling ‘lashed out with body language of clenched fists, clenched teeth, red faced’ a lawyer representing Gravity Diagnostics, claimed.

John Maley added that Mr Berling was ‘shaking and verbally demanding her (the supervisor) “stop talking,” and “be quiet,” while glaring across the table’.

He said both colleagues were ‘terrified for their physical safety,’ which led to the company sacking Mr Berling on August 11.

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Before the incident, he had never been reprimanded for his behaviour.

Mr Berling had sued the company for ‘discrimination on the basis of a disability,’ suggesting that he had been confronted at the second meeting and reportedly accused of ‘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 Berling’s attorney, Tony Bucher, told the BBC that there ‘was absolutely no evidence’ of him posing a threat to anyone at Gravity which meant he should be sacked.

‘He had a panic attack. That is all’, the lawyer said.

‘And, 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.

‘Particularly in this era of workplace violence, employers are entitled to and indeed should take prompt action, as here, to protect their employees,’ he said.

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