Employee Says He Doesn't Want A Birthday Party At Work, They Throw One Anyway & He's Awarded $450,000 In Damages

He had specifically asked them not to, knowing how it would make him react. However, they ignored his request.

Office party, man fired Pavel Danilyuk, ANTONI SHKRABA production / Pexels, Ellen11 / Getty via CanvaPro

Office birthday parties can be fun to celebrate with your co-workers and enjoy a break from working, but they are not for everyone and that’s completely acceptable. The bright candles and the loud noises of cheering and confetti poppers may be too much for some people, especially those prone to anxiety.

One man aware of his anxiety disorder informed his coworkers that he did not want an office party for his upcoming birthday. However, they ignored his request and threw one anyway. Now they are paying the ultimate price — $450,000 to be exact. 


RELATED: Boss Stunned When Employee Quits After Being Scheduled To Work During A Pre-Paid, Pre-Approved Vacation

The man suffered a panic attack after his coworkers threw him a birthday party he told them not to. 

In 2019, Kevin Berling, an employee at the company Gravity Diagnostics in Kentucky, told his fellow coworkers not to throw him a birthday party as they did for other employees due to his anxiety disorder. He stated that the chaotic event could trigger a panic attack.

His boss and other employees appeared to understand the request, but on August 7 when Berling went into the office on his birthday, he was shocked to discover that the company had organized a surprise birthday party for him during lunch.


RELATED: Man Sues Woman For $3 Million For Friendzoning Him & Causing 'Damage To His Stellar Reputation' & 'Impacts On His Life'

This sent him into a panic attack and forced him to eat his lunch alone in his car. He texted his boss, upset that his request was not granted. The following day, Berling was called into a meeting regarding his panic attack and was criticized for his behavior. The confrontation led to another panic attack, and he was sent home after the meeting that day and the next.


RELATED: Boss Texts Employee About His 'Unacceptable' Behavior During Work Despite Being The Top Performer For The Day

A few days later, Berling was fired. 

The letter cited “the events from the previous week” as cause for termination. Being stripped of his needs and then subsequently being wrongfully let go from his job when he reacted, Berling filed a lawsuit against Gravity Diagnostics, alleging disability discrimination and retaliation for wrongful termination. 

Julie Brazil, the Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Gravity Diagnostics told LINK NKY that Berling was fired for violating “a workplace violence policy.” She claims that her employees perceived the panic attacks to be violent and that they took necessary measures when Berling was experiencing them.


“My employees de-escalated the situation to get the plaintiff out of the building as quickly as possible while removing his access to the building, alerting me and sending out security reminders to ensure he could not access the building, which is exactly what they were supposed to do,” she said.

Berling’s attorney, Tony Bucher argued that his client was not a threat to his coworkers. “I think the significance for employers is that they need to understand that they shouldn’t make assumptions about individuals with mental health issues,” he told the jury. “Kevin was an exceptional employee that went above and beyond for his employer and if they would have taken a step back it would have been clear that he did not present any danger at all.”

RELATED: Mom Sues School Who She Says Taught Biracial Son To See Himself As A ‘Black Man’

The jury ultimately sided with Berling and he was awarded $450,000. 

He was given $300,000 for emotional distress and $150,000 for lost wages. The jury declared that he had suffered an “adverse employment action” due to his anxiety disorder. Brazil stands by her decision to have Berling terminated and the company plans to challenge the verdict and may file an appeal. 


The story spread like wildfire on the internet, with people siding with Berling. “I’m so sorry that he had to go through this, but workplaces need to understand that mental issues are real. Maybe $450k will make them understand better,” one Twitter user wrote. “All the employer needed to do was listen and respect their employee’s personal request,” another user pointed out. “This request had no effect on the person’s job with the company and at the end of the day would have no effect on the company’s bottom line.” 

Anxiety disorders can present themselves in various ways. Those who struggle with mental challenges are not always violent and should have their boundaries respected, even if it means refraining from throwing parties.

RELATED: Woman Calls In Sick To Work But Gets Scheduled For A 'Discussion' 10 Minutes Later — 'We're Gonna Box Up Your Belongings'


Megan Quinn is a writer at YourTango who covers entertainment and news, self, love, and relationships.