Man fired for having panic attack at his work surprise party wins R7m lawsuit against boss

Not every person enjoys surprise parties. Photo: Pixabay

Not every person enjoys surprise parties. Photo: Pixabay

Published Jul 28, 2022


Durban - At times, workers are forced to partake in office activities or events they may not necessarily enjoy.

In Kevin Berling’s case, his managers may have taken things a bit too far.

Berling, who claimed his previous employer fired him because he was “mad” because his office had thrown him a surprise birthday party against his wishes, reportedly won $450 000 (R7 549 239) in court.

Talking to WKRC-TV, Berling’s lawyer, Tony Bucher said: “They started giving him a pretty hard time for his response to the birthday celebration, actually accusing him of stealing his co-workers’ joy.”

According to Insider reports, Berling suffers from panic episodes due to an anxiety illness.

From court records that WKRC-TV acquired, he informed his managers at Gravity Diagnostics in Covington, Kentucky, that he did not want to celebrate his birthday in August 2019.

However, according to the lawsuit, they still surprised him with a party.

After the celebration, according to reports, his superiors questioned and humiliated him for his response, which led to Berling having another panic attack.

Supposedly, after this second incident, Berling resorted to working from home for the rest of the week.

In court documents, Berling claimed that he “has suffered and is continuing to suffer from a loss of income and benefits, as well as emotional hardship and mental anxiety” before suing Gravity Diagnostics for disability discrimination and retaliation.

Even though Berling was awarded $450 000 in damages, the business has the option to challenge the judge's ruling.

Berling is receiving therapy, and according to Bucher, he has been a fantastic worker for Gravity Diagnostics.

The SA Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) describe a panic attack as a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions when there is no real danger or apparent cause.

Panic attacks can be very frightening. When panic attacks occur, you might think you're losing control, having a heart attack or even dying.

Panic attacks happen, says Sadag, when our fight or flight mode has a false alarm.

The good news is that you can unlearn the cues that cause panic attacks.

* If you or anyone you know suffer from panic attacks contact Sadag to find out more of how to deal with this. 0800 567 567

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