Jury Rewards 450,000 for Dismissed Person at Unwanted Office Birthday Party

A Kentucky man who was fired just days after a panic attack at an unwanted birthday party at his workplace was awarded জ 450,000 by a jury last month for lost wages and mental distress.

The man, Kevin Burling, had been working at Gravity Diagnostics, a medical laboratory in Cavington, for about 10 months, when he told the office manager he had an anxiety disorder and would not throw him at a birthday party, according to a lawsuit. Filed in Canton County Circuit Court, Kentucky.

Mr Burling’s lawyer, Tony Butcher, said the party was planned by other employees when the office manager was away and the situation quickly spiraled out of control.

Mr Burling was shocked to learn of the planned luncheon, which included a banner wishing colleagues a happy birthday and decorating the break room. Mr. Burling chose to take a lunch break in his car instead.

The next day, Mr. Burling was horrified at a meeting with two supervisors who confronted him about his “loyal behavior,” Mr. Butcher said. He was fired three days later in an email suggesting that Mr Burling had threatened the safety of his colleagues.

In a court filing, the company said it fired Mr. Burling because he was “violent” at the meeting and intimidated supervisors, who sent him home for the day, took his original fob and told security personnel he was not allowed to return.

One month after the meeting, in September 2019, Mr. Burling sued the company for disability discrimination.

After a two-day trial, a jury reached a verdict on March 31, concluding that Mr. Burling had faced an adverse employment measure because of his disability. The jury awarded him $ 150,000 for lost wages and benefits and $ 300,000 for hardship, embarrassment and loss of self-esteem.

The judge in the case has not yet ruled on the verdict, according to local news website LINK Enki.

Gravity Diagnostics lawyer John Malley said Saturday that the company would file a post-trial motion challenging the verdict on legal grounds and claiming that a judge had violated a court order to obtain information outside the trial.

Mr Maley said the lawsuit did not meet the standard for disability claims because Mr Burling did not disclose his concerns to the company and did not meet the legal threshold to qualify for disability.

Mr Malley said the company had the right to fire Mr Burling – a lab technician whose job was arbitrary, which meant he could be fired for any legal reason – because he clenched his fist, his face turned red and he was silent at his supervisory meeting. Instructed to stay, scared them.

Julie Brazil, founder and chief operating officer of Gravity Diagnostics, said on Saturday, “They were afraid of physical harm at that moment.” “They both deal with their confidence as they choose to embark on their play activities.”

Mr Butcher said the company’s response was that Mr Burling had criticized his response at a supervisory party after he tried to calm himself down during a panic attack.

Mr Burling told them to stop talking and used physical coping tactics, including a move in which Mr Butcher described his fists were closed but “wrapped around his chest, somehow, almost wrapped around himself.”

Mr. Burling was sent home for the rest of the work day and the next day. According to the complaint, at home a few hours after the meeting, he texted a supervisor to apologize for his panic attack.

Earlier that week, Mr Butcher said Mr Burling had received “outstanding” monthly reviews. The company said it had never received a negative review, and had not been disciplined, according to court documents.

Mr Burling is happy with his new job at a school, Mr Butcher said, and although his panic attacks have increased in frequency since that week in 2019, they have gradually declined.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorder in the United States, and according to the American Anxiety and Depression Association, they affect approximately 40 million adults in the country each year.

Bisma Anwar, mental health consultant at Therapy App Talkspace, said in an email that for those experiencing anxiety disorders and panic attacks, discussing these issues with a supervisor at work was a good idea when it could be a source of help. The employee is struggling.

Mrs Anwar said job worries could be due to work pressure as well as social pressures.

“Social anxiety can start in the workplace when communication with managers and colleagues is expected,” said Mrs. Anwar. “If an employee is uncomfortable and anxious to take part in a birthday party or a celebration for others in their honor, they should be allowed to get out of it.”

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