A Kentucky man with an anxiety disorder has been given a huge payout after his company threw him a surprise birthday celebration – after he asked staff not to.

NBC News reports Kevin Berling had asked the company, Gravity Diagnostics, not to put on a celebration for him as he knew it would trigger a panic attack.

However, the company chose to do so anyway in August 2019.


When Mr Berling got upset, the company fired him – according to a lawsuit he filed against the company.

In March, a jury awarded Mr Berling $450,000, saying he suffered an “adverse employment action” because of his anxiety disability.

The company surprised him on his birthday with a celebration in the lunchroom.

This led, as warned, to Mr Berling having a panic attack.

He left and had to eat the rest of his lunch in his car.

He then texted his manager to express his upset at the company for not adhering to his wishes.

He was then called into a meeting where he was “was confronted and criticized” for his reaction, according to the lawsuit.

“This confrontation triggered another panic attack,” the lawsuit says. “At the conclusion of this meeting and because plaintiff had a panic attack, plaintiff was sent home from work for the remainder of August 8 and August 9.”

Gravity Diagnostics did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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However, founder and Chief Operating Officer Julie Brazil told the northern Kentucky news website Link NKY that Mr Berling was terminated for violating a “workplace violence policy” and that the company stands by its decision.

She also said there had been an increase in incidents of workplace violence, telling the site: “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.”

Tony Bucher, an attorney for Berling, said his client posed no threat.

He said: “I think the significance for employers is that they need to understand that they shouldn’t make assumptions about individuals with mental health issues. 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,” he said in a statement.

Gravity Diagnostics is based in Covington, Kentucky and provides medical testing on a range of conditions.

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