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Employee Gets An Unwanted Surprise Birthday Party At Office, Gets A Panic Attack, Sues The Company For $450k
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Occasions, People5 months ago

Employee Gets An Unwanted Surprise Birthday Party At Office, Gets A Panic Attack, Sues The Company For $450k

Birthdays at work can get awkward because the company and your colleagues might feel it’s their duty to congratulate you even though you’re not that close to them. You might not like birthday celebrations in general, especially because we still haven’t found out the secret of what to do when people sing “Happy Birthday” to you.

However, a lab technician at Gravity Diagnostics in Covington, Kevin Berling, really didn’t want his colleagues to organize any type of celebration for him, explaining that he suffers from an anxiety disorder and panic attacks. The company still threw him a party and he did indeed experience a panic attack. Kevin sued his employer, won the lawsuit and was compensated $450,000.

More info: Twitter

A man received $450k from his company that not only threw a birthday party that caused him a panic attack but also fired him for it

Image credits: helenmoverland (not the actual photo)

Kevin Berling started working at Gravity Diagnostics in Covington in 2018. This company had a tradition of throwing little lunch break birthday parties for employees. Knowing that, the lab technician warned his manager on August 2, 2019 not to do anything similar for him because it would cause him immense stress that would lead to a panic attack.

Panic attacks are no joke as it’s not just a mental condition, which is not pleasant in itself, but it also manifests itself in a variety of physical symptoms. Among others, the NHS lists feeling faint, nausea, chest pain, shortness of breath, a choking sensation or ringing in your ears as symptoms of the disorder. They can last from 5 minutes to 20 minutes and even an hour and are a big strain on one’s health.

Image credits: tieshatwo

When Kevin started working at the company, he knew about the birthday parties held for employees

Image credits: tieshatwo

While for some people, panic attacks come on with no apparent reason, Kevin knew what his trigger was and opened up about it in order to prevent it. Even though he was listened to and the manager accepted the request, she forgot to pass the information along and 5 days later, during lunch break, Kevin was greeted with a banner, a cake and birthday wishes from his colleagues.

Unsurprisingly, the event caused Kevin to have a panic attack, so he retreated to his car. What is worse, when he came to work the next day, his boss was completely insensitive towards him and blamed him for “stealing his coworkers’ joy” and “being a little girl.”

Image credits: tieshatwo

Image credits: abenyola

He didn’t want to receive so much attention from his coworkers as he suffered from anxiety and panic attacks, so he told the manager about it in advance

Image credits: Chriswb71

This attitude caused Kevin to have another panic attack. Kevin’s attorney Tony Bucher said that during the panic attack, his client was hugging himself as a method to try and calm down and his coworkers asked him to stop, but when he didn’t, they just left.

The coworkers “believed he was enraged and possibly about to get violent.” Kevin’s supervisor took away his key and asked security to not allow the employee back in.

Image credits: tieshatwo

Image credits: lolatiffhur

Bored Panda contacted Arthur LCSW to find out if panic attacks may make a person become violent and if the fears the supervisor had had any ground to it. They explained, “Panic attacks are marked by internal stress anxiety and fear. Many people experience sweaty palms racing heart some people think that they are having a heart attack though they are not. Most people do not become violent during a panic attack however panic can present in different ways for different people. If during someone’s panic they feel threatened they may try to protect themselves.”

The coworkers could have gotten the impression that Kevin might become aggressive because everyone has a different external reaction when they are having a panic attack, but Arthur LCSW doesn’t reject the possibility that “This may be due to ignorance about mental health.”

Apparently the manager failed to pass the information along and 5 days later Kevin found himself surrounded by colleagues wishing him a happy birthday

Image credits: randy_otto

Image credits: smbrnjd

After the incident Kevin was sent home and he never had the chance to come back because he received an email from his employer “informing him that he was being terminated because of the events of the previous week.”

Kevin sued the company for violating the Kentucky Civil Rights Act by firing him because of his disability and for not accommodating it by just not throwing him a party as he asked.

The company’s response to the accusation was that Kevin didn’t even prove his disability and they fired him not because of his condition, but because they feared the workplace wasn’t safe with him there.

Image credits: GenesisNotSega

Surprise surprise, Kevin had a panic attack

Image credits: SpaghettiWolf69

Image credits: Lindsey Turner (not the actual photo)

After a 2-day trial that took place in Kenton County and ended on March 31 of this year, the jury unanimously declared that Kevin indeed suffers from a disability and wasn’t provided a work environment that accommodated it.

The jury also awarded Kevin $450k which included “$120,000 in lost wages and benefits; $30,000 in future lost wages and benefits; and $300,000 for past, present and future mental pain and suffering, mental anguish, embarrassment, humiliation, mortification and loss of self-esteem.”

If that was not enough, he suffered another one the next day as his supervisor was very unhappy about him ruining the celebration for everyone

Image credits: UmbireTheShade

Image credits: forthecomments1

Panic attacks can manifest in different ways and people have different ways to cope, but the supervisor interpreted that behavior as aggression

Image credits: GettinSpooky

Image credits: ViolaS_1

The story went viral all over the internet and prompted a discussion about mental illnesses, disorders and how they are real and not just fever dreams you can snap out of. It also brought up the topic of listening to people’s wishes, respecting their boundaries and appreciating employees for the work they do.

Many people related to Kevin and also hated being the center of attention on any occasion. Several people mentioned that these kinds of situations are what makes them love working from home and dread the day when companies force everyone to come back. Of course, online users were also glad that the court acknowledged Kevin’s suffering and gave the man a decent compensation.

Image credits: TruantAfterglow

In fear of a violent outburst due to his panic attacks, Kevin was fired

Image credits: pasta_jin_

Image credits: Khryswithak

This case shows that there is still a lot of stigma surrounding mental health issues, but Arthur LCSW suggests that people who suffer from panic attacks need to seek help from a mental health professional or they can explore their options with their primary care doctor.

Regarding the workplace, the expert says that “When someone discloses a medical need including a mental health need company should do their best to make reasonable accommodations. Some companies have EAP programs where employees are allowed to receive a number of sessions with a licensed therapist that is paid for by the company.”

So he sued the company and won the case, receiving $450k as compensation

Image credits: RK_Rowan69

Image credits: Skye_Birdsong

What was your reaction when you read the story? Do you think Kevin deserved the money he received? Was the company in the right to fire him because they feared a panic attack might end with outbursts of violence? Do you consider this situation a case of disability discrimination? We would like to encourage you to have a conversation about this in the comments!

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Full English
Community Member
5 months ago

I have a fear of spiders it's a real issue and I'm a pretty big bloke. One day at work a colleague thought it would be funny to find the biggest spider he could and put it down my shirt. He did, I freaked and hit him broke his jaw. He never stopped blaming me. How could I be so scared of a little spider he constantly whined. Phobias can be real and unpleasant.

-
Community Member
5 months ago (edited)

Using phobias to torment someone is cruel.

Load More Replies...
Sam
Community Member
5 months ago

I think this is going to end up like the McDonalds hot coffee case, where it ends up being used as a "frivolous lawsuit" example, even though there is real merit. I've already seen several articles doing just that by not mentioning or severely downplaying the employee's anxiety disorder.

Andy
Community Member
5 months ago

Yeah, that was my first thought when I read about it on another site, the headlines are all focusing on "man sues office for throwing him a birthday party", instead of man sues company after being fired for having a panic attack that was completely avoidable, and that he had told them how to prevent.

Load More Replies...
Ally MacMann
Community Member
5 months ago

If someone asks not to have a birthday party and one is thrown anyway, that's bad enough and for him to have a panic attack as a result of something he specifically said no to makes it wrong on so many levels. To fire him for his reaction... I'm lost for words.

Tiredofpayingforothers
Community Member
5 months ago

This comment is hidden. Click here to view.

This comment has been deleted.

Load More Replies...
Shae Ananda
Community Member
5 months ago

The layout on this story makes it very difficult to follow.

Hatred Pony
Community Member
5 months ago

Yes! Very badly written and laid out.

Load More Replies...
Crazy Chicken Person
Community Member
5 months ago

I have really bad social anxiety and have about 3 panic attacks every school day. My record is 6. I have had someone throw me a birthday party before when I asked them not to, and it also resulted in a panic attack. I feel so bad for this guy that had to go through that even though it was completely avoidable. Those buttholes need to realize that mental illnesses are not a joke and are very real.

Kathryn Baylis
Community Member
5 months ago (edited)

Would much prefer the company cut me a birthday bonus check instead of waste the money on a stupid celebration I don’t want. Just pay me what a b******t birthday party costs and we’ll be square.

B B
Community Member
5 months ago

In my country, like in Germany, we don’t do birthday parties either. The birthday person bring the cake. If you don’t, no one will care about your birthday and that’s fine. We like our privacy, and even if you could have friends in your workplace, we don’t like mixing privacy and work.

Jessica LanSpe
Community Member
5 months ago

While I like some attention on my birthday, and I like to have a rapport with my co-workers......if I don't want a party, then my wishes should be respected. A card signed by my co-workers is all the attention I really want. No cake or party.

D K
Community Member
5 months ago

I had always been the odd one out for choosing to take my lunch breaks alone, instead of sitting for lunch with coworkers.

Kathryn Baylis
Community Member
5 months ago (edited)

Me too. I’m not a lunch eater anyway, so have always used the time to run errands so I could go straight home at quitting time. Took less time too, as I didn’t have to stand in line with the rest of the after 5 crowd. People thought I was antisocial. I’m not antisocial. I have a real life and real friends outside and far away from work. I just learned the hard way to not invite my work life into my personal life—-you gotta fumigate the f**k outta your life afterward, to get rid of the stench of that s**t.

Load More Replies...
Potato patato
Community Member
5 months ago

I feel like bp edited this one wrong.

Martha Meyer
Community Member
5 months ago

Well, I'd say that was a panic attack worth having.

Dakota Ball
Community Member
5 months ago

I wonder if intentional infliction of emotional distress was part of his suit? Either way, if he's in the US, he's protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act and it literally comes up when you start most (at least office based) jobs for you to say that you have a disability and anxiety is literally right there on the front page as a suggestion. From experience as a person with complex mental health issues, what happened here is both illegal and shows terrible understanding and lack of empathy on the company and boss

Louise French
Community Member
5 months ago

The story is good but the organization is a hot mess. The headlines, paragraphs and comments tell the story at 3 different paces.

Niall Mac Iomera
Community Member
5 months ago

Unpopular opinion: while they should have respected his wishes, if having a birthday party thrown for you causes you to have such a reaction that it causes you to be fired: maybe you need a different job.

Celia McReynolds Tinsley
Community Member
5 months ago

Years ago I worked for Head Start and we were allowed one mental health day per school year. Sounded great until I learned we had to take it on a Friday, no kids that day, and we all had to spend the day together doing something that would create a stronger bond between us. I don't think anyone was interested and we never took "advantage" of a mental health day the entire time I worked there.

Hatred Pony
Community Member
5 months ago

The layout of this article made me anxious.

Ember Hermin
Community Member
5 months ago

People are already deliberately misrepresenting what happened here to justify this evil behavior. No one should be forced to attend parties to keep their job and if you disagree I sentence you to loud music and noisemaking and cheering and socializing with people who make self-serving gestures of kindness and demand your soul in return for all of eternity or until you get the message

Melanie Hornak
Community Member
5 months ago

Feeling like my parents owe me something now...

K Witmer
Community Member
5 months ago

I never ever went to anything mandatory at any job I've ever had before I opened my business. Never got fired always came up w an excuse. But I also hated those kinds of jobs and would quit within the year

Katherine Boag
Community Member
5 months ago

I always take the day off for my birthday. One year my work wouldnt stop calling me: they wanted to know where I was (uh you approved my leave). Turns out the HR lady had got me flowers for my birthday but noone could find me to give me them ?_? She'd gone through my file to get that info, and noone else got given flowers on their birthday. I was incredibly embarassed at the fuss and one guy kept 'joking' about how unfair it was and how he was jealous. I wish I'd realised that it was inappropriate enough to say something.

Ryan-James O'Driscoll
Community Member
5 months ago

I don't really do forced office fun with my team. We do have a weekly quiz which they are encouraged to attend but it's not mandatory. I do tend to acknowledge birthdays with something, usually a kudoboard or something. If a team member expressed any discomfort, I would not. Depending on their reasons why, etc I might mark the day with a low-key personal gesture but for the most part I leave it up to them as to whether they want to celebrate their birthday at work

Curry on...
Community Member
5 months ago

I don't get over anxious about it, but I prefer that my birthday is ignored even by family and friends. I like for the day to just come and go. I also hate surprise parties.

Robert Giese
Community Member
5 months ago

I'm constantly amazed how millennials can whine about nothing and get everything they want.

Ember Hermin
Community Member
5 months ago

What the f**k does this have to do with anything that happened here?

Load More Replies...
Tiredofpayingforothers
Community Member
5 months ago

This comment is hidden. Click here to view.

This comment has been deleted.

Rob Bertram
Community Member
5 months ago

I would have terminated your sorry ass the second you brought up medication for undiagnosed seizures.

Load More Replies...
John Smith
Community Member
5 months ago

This comment is hidden. Click here to view.

This is one of the dumbest things I have ever seen on BP. If you can't handle a simple "happy birthday," maybe you shouldn't be working there. The other employees were trying to be nice and they bought (or made) a cake for him. That's an incredibly kind gesture. Yet, he couldn't handle that. So, yeah, if you can't handle basic human interaction, there are some companies that won't want you to work for them.

angry_waffle
Community Member
5 months ago

He told them, no birthday parties. And what did they do, throw him a birthday party then fire him after he had a panic attack.

Load More Replies...
Full English
Community Member
5 months ago

I have a fear of spiders it's a real issue and I'm a pretty big bloke. One day at work a colleague thought it would be funny to find the biggest spider he could and put it down my shirt. He did, I freaked and hit him broke his jaw. He never stopped blaming me. How could I be so scared of a little spider he constantly whined. Phobias can be real and unpleasant.

-
Community Member
5 months ago (edited)

Using phobias to torment someone is cruel.

Load More Replies...
Sam
Community Member
5 months ago

I think this is going to end up like the McDonalds hot coffee case, where it ends up being used as a "frivolous lawsuit" example, even though there is real merit. I've already seen several articles doing just that by not mentioning or severely downplaying the employee's anxiety disorder.

Andy
Community Member
5 months ago

Yeah, that was my first thought when I read about it on another site, the headlines are all focusing on "man sues office for throwing him a birthday party", instead of man sues company after being fired for having a panic attack that was completely avoidable, and that he had told them how to prevent.

Load More Replies...
Ally MacMann
Community Member
5 months ago

If someone asks not to have a birthday party and one is thrown anyway, that's bad enough and for him to have a panic attack as a result of something he specifically said no to makes it wrong on so many levels. To fire him for his reaction... I'm lost for words.

Tiredofpayingforothers
Community Member
5 months ago

This comment is hidden. Click here to view.

This comment has been deleted.

Load More Replies...
Shae Ananda
Community Member
5 months ago

The layout on this story makes it very difficult to follow.

Hatred Pony
Community Member
5 months ago

Yes! Very badly written and laid out.

Load More Replies...
Crazy Chicken Person
Community Member
5 months ago

I have really bad social anxiety and have about 3 panic attacks every school day. My record is 6. I have had someone throw me a birthday party before when I asked them not to, and it also resulted in a panic attack. I feel so bad for this guy that had to go through that even though it was completely avoidable. Those buttholes need to realize that mental illnesses are not a joke and are very real.

Kathryn Baylis
Community Member
5 months ago (edited)

Would much prefer the company cut me a birthday bonus check instead of waste the money on a stupid celebration I don’t want. Just pay me what a b******t birthday party costs and we’ll be square.

B B
Community Member
5 months ago

In my country, like in Germany, we don’t do birthday parties either. The birthday person bring the cake. If you don’t, no one will care about your birthday and that’s fine. We like our privacy, and even if you could have friends in your workplace, we don’t like mixing privacy and work.

Jessica LanSpe
Community Member
5 months ago

While I like some attention on my birthday, and I like to have a rapport with my co-workers......if I don't want a party, then my wishes should be respected. A card signed by my co-workers is all the attention I really want. No cake or party.

D K
Community Member
5 months ago

I had always been the odd one out for choosing to take my lunch breaks alone, instead of sitting for lunch with coworkers.

Kathryn Baylis
Community Member
5 months ago (edited)

Me too. I’m not a lunch eater anyway, so have always used the time to run errands so I could go straight home at quitting time. Took less time too, as I didn’t have to stand in line with the rest of the after 5 crowd. People thought I was antisocial. I’m not antisocial. I have a real life and real friends outside and far away from work. I just learned the hard way to not invite my work life into my personal life—-you gotta fumigate the f**k outta your life afterward, to get rid of the stench of that s**t.

Load More Replies...
Potato patato
Community Member
5 months ago

I feel like bp edited this one wrong.

Martha Meyer
Community Member
5 months ago

Well, I'd say that was a panic attack worth having.

Dakota Ball
Community Member
5 months ago

I wonder if intentional infliction of emotional distress was part of his suit? Either way, if he's in the US, he's protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act and it literally comes up when you start most (at least office based) jobs for you to say that you have a disability and anxiety is literally right there on the front page as a suggestion. From experience as a person with complex mental health issues, what happened here is both illegal and shows terrible understanding and lack of empathy on the company and boss

Louise French
Community Member
5 months ago

The story is good but the organization is a hot mess. The headlines, paragraphs and comments tell the story at 3 different paces.

Niall Mac Iomera
Community Member
5 months ago

Unpopular opinion: while they should have respected his wishes, if having a birthday party thrown for you causes you to have such a reaction that it causes you to be fired: maybe you need a different job.

Celia McReynolds Tinsley
Community Member
5 months ago

Years ago I worked for Head Start and we were allowed one mental health day per school year. Sounded great until I learned we had to take it on a Friday, no kids that day, and we all had to spend the day together doing something that would create a stronger bond between us. I don't think anyone was interested and we never took "advantage" of a mental health day the entire time I worked there.

Hatred Pony
Community Member
5 months ago

The layout of this article made me anxious.

Ember Hermin
Community Member
5 months ago

People are already deliberately misrepresenting what happened here to justify this evil behavior. No one should be forced to attend parties to keep their job and if you disagree I sentence you to loud music and noisemaking and cheering and socializing with people who make self-serving gestures of kindness and demand your soul in return for all of eternity or until you get the message

Melanie Hornak
Community Member
5 months ago

Feeling like my parents owe me something now...

K Witmer
Community Member
5 months ago

I never ever went to anything mandatory at any job I've ever had before I opened my business. Never got fired always came up w an excuse. But I also hated those kinds of jobs and would quit within the year

Katherine Boag
Community Member
5 months ago

I always take the day off for my birthday. One year my work wouldnt stop calling me: they wanted to know where I was (uh you approved my leave). Turns out the HR lady had got me flowers for my birthday but noone could find me to give me them ?_? She'd gone through my file to get that info, and noone else got given flowers on their birthday. I was incredibly embarassed at the fuss and one guy kept 'joking' about how unfair it was and how he was jealous. I wish I'd realised that it was inappropriate enough to say something.

Ryan-James O'Driscoll
Community Member
5 months ago

I don't really do forced office fun with my team. We do have a weekly quiz which they are encouraged to attend but it's not mandatory. I do tend to acknowledge birthdays with something, usually a kudoboard or something. If a team member expressed any discomfort, I would not. Depending on their reasons why, etc I might mark the day with a low-key personal gesture but for the most part I leave it up to them as to whether they want to celebrate their birthday at work

Curry on...
Community Member
5 months ago

I don't get over anxious about it, but I prefer that my birthday is ignored even by family and friends. I like for the day to just come and go. I also hate surprise parties.

Robert Giese
Community Member
5 months ago

I'm constantly amazed how millennials can whine about nothing and get everything they want.

Ember Hermin
Community Member
5 months ago

What the f**k does this have to do with anything that happened here?

Load More Replies...
Tiredofpayingforothers
Community Member
5 months ago

This comment is hidden. Click here to view.

This comment has been deleted.

Rob Bertram
Community Member
5 months ago

I would have terminated your sorry ass the second you brought up medication for undiagnosed seizures.

Load More Replies...
John Smith
Community Member
5 months ago

This comment is hidden. Click here to view.

This is one of the dumbest things I have ever seen on BP. If you can't handle a simple "happy birthday," maybe you shouldn't be working there. The other employees were trying to be nice and they bought (or made) a cake for him. That's an incredibly kind gesture. Yet, he couldn't handle that. So, yeah, if you can't handle basic human interaction, there are some companies that won't want you to work for them.

angry_waffle
Community Member
5 months ago

He told them, no birthday parties. And what did they do, throw him a birthday party then fire him after he had a panic attack.

Load More Replies...
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