Man Wins $450K From Jury In Lawsuit After Being Fired For Unwanted Office Birthday Party

'Happy birthday' sign
Unsplash | Jane Graystone

Just like at restaurants, birthday parties in the workplace aren't for everyone. What would you do if your coworkers threw you a birthday party that you never wanted in the first place, resulting in a cascading series of events that led to you getting fired?

If you're Kevin Berling of Covington, Kentucky, you'd respond by suing your workplace — and winning.

Kevin Berling had been working at a medical lab for about 10 months.

Workers at a medical lab
Unsplash | CDC

According to The New York Times, when Berling's birthday came near, he asked his office manager not to throw him a birthday party.

Berling had good reason for this, as a big birthday scene could mess with his anxiety disorder.

His office threw him a birthday party anyway.

The Office Meredith birthday downsizing card
Giphy | The Office

The office manager was away at the time, so there may have been miscommunication somewhere along the line. But in any event, Berling's other coworkers wound up throwing him a birthday party that he'd never wanted.

He had a panic attack.

Cars in a parking lot
Unsplash | Vitor Paladini

After learning about the lunchtime party in his honor, Berling experienced a panic attack. To avoid the unwanted party, he chose to spend the time in his car instead.

He was confronted about his behavior.

Employees in a meeting
Unsplash | charlesdeluvio

Berling's response seems reasonable, particularly for someone with an anxiety disorder. Regardless, two supervisors called him in for a meeting the next day where they confronted him about his 'somber behavior.'

Three days later, he was fired.

Mail icon
Unsplash | Brett Jordan

The email informing Berling of his termination "suggested that Berling posed a threat to his co-workers' safety."

Berling's employers said they fired him for being 'violent' during the meeting, which scared his supervisors.

Soon enough, Berling sued for disability discrimination.

Unsplash | Tingey Injury Law Firm

Because this cascading series of events began with his anxiety disorder and ended with his termination, Berling certainly appeared to have a case.

The jury agreed, wrapping up a quick two-day trial with a verdict in Berling's favor. He was awarded $150,000 in lost wages and $300,000 for suffering, embarrassment, and loss of self-esteem.

The verdict will be challenged.

A courtroom
Unsplash | Kelly Sikkema

The lawyer for Berling's former employer says the company will challenge the verdict, claiming the case did not meet the standard for a disability suit because the company was not aware of Berling's anxiety disorder.

Was he actually threatening?

Red neon question mark
Unsplash | Simone Secci

"[The supervisors] were absolutely in fear of physical harm during that [meeting]," said the company's founder and CEO. "They both are still shaken about it today."

Berling's camp says his behavior was an effort to calm down during a panic attack.

What do you think?

office birthday party
Pexels | RODNAE Productions

Many of us have experienced bad treatment from an employer. Most of the time it doesn't lead to a lawsuit, but sometimes it does. Let us know what you think of this story and be sure to share your stories of workplace drama!

h/t: The New York Times