American man sues employer after unwanted birthday party, gets awarded US$450,000

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After getting fired over a birthday party at the office, a man in Kentucky has been awarded US$450,000 (RM1.9 million) in damages. ― Unsplash pic
After getting fired over a birthday party at the office, a man in Kentucky has been awarded US$450,000 (RM1.9 million) in damages. ― Unsplash pic

PETALING JAYA, April 18 — After getting fired over a birthday party at the office, a man in Kentucky has been awarded US$450,000 (RM1.9 million) in damages.

The plaintiff sued his former employer, Gravity Diagnostics, on the grounds of disability discrimination and retaliation.

Quoting court documents, WLKY reported the plaintiff had informed his office manager to not hold a celebration for his birthday in August last year, as birthday parties triggered his anxiety disorder.

However, the office threw a lunchtime birthday party for the plaintiff anyway.

Upon learning about the party, the plaintiff had a panic attack, causing him to “leave the office suddenly and spend his lunch break in his car.”

According to WLKY, the lawsuit states that the employee suffered yet another panic attack when he was called into a meeting the next day, where he was “confronted and criticised”.

After being sent home for the next two days, the plaintiff was informed that he was being fired for “the events of the previous week”.

Speaking to Link NKY, the plaintiff’s lawyer Tony Bucher said his client was accused of “stealing other co-workers’ joy”.

“The way he (the plaintiff) described it is he started hugging himself and asked them to please stop,” said Bucher, describing his client’s coping techniques during his second panic attack.

“The way (Gravity Diagnostics) say it, they believed he was enraged and possibly about to get violent.”

As per the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of a panic attack can include a rapid, pounding heart rate, chest pain, dizziness, shortness of breath and nausea.

Link NKY also reported that Gravity Diagnostics was planning to challenge the verdict, with founder and COO Julie Brazil saying, “My employees were the victims in this case, not the plaintiff.”

“As an employer who puts our employee safety first, we have a zero-tolerance policy and we stand by our decision to terminate the plaintiff for his violation of our workplace violence policy,” said Brazil.

Twitter users have had a field day with the case, with many voicing support for the plaintiff.

“Sorry he had to go through this but workplaces need to understand mental issues are real,” said one user.

“They couldn’t have just given him a lil cupcake with the candle in it?” quipped another.

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