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A man has been awarded damages of $450,000 as a result of suing his former company over a fallout from a surprise birthday celebration.
An employee of Kentucky-based Gravity Diagnostics warned the 'innovative laboratory testing' company he didn't want a birthday celebration.
Many people will say they don't want a fuss, only to end up slightly disappointed when friends haven't gone all out to arrange a surprise event and cake adorned in not just candles but sparklers too. However, in this case the court documents revealed the employee genuinely feared 'being the centre of attention' as it could increase his anxiety levels and potentially cause a panic attack.
Unfortunately, the company decided to have celebration. In August 2019, despite telling his office manager not to arrange anything for his birthday, a surprise lunchtime party was thrown for the employee, the Lexington Herald Leader reports.
As a result, the employee – who had been at the company since October 2018 – suffered a panic attack and had to leave and sit in his car for the rest of his break.
His attorney, Tony Bucher, noted the person 'who was responsible for the birthday parties who he talked to flat out forgot about his request'.
Bucher told Link NKY: "She didn’t do it to be mean. She said she would accommodate it and she just forgot."
According to Bucher, his client was called into a conference room the following day.
Bucher said: "According to my client, she started reading him the riot act and accused him of stealing other coworkers’ joy.
"At this point he starts employing other coping techniques that he’s worked on for years with his therapist. The way he described it is he started hugging himself and asked them to please stop."
The former employee reportedly had a panic attack and was asked to leave the building.
Court records revealed the employee was fired by Gravity Diagnostics days later.
Bucher explained: "They way [the Gravity Diagnostics employees] say it, they believed he was enraged and possibly about to get violent."
However, the attorney argued that opposite to lashing out, panic attacks tend to cause sufferers to almost freeze in fear.
"Basically what the argument was is he was fired for having a panic attack. They made assumptions that he was dangerous based off of his disability and not off of any evidence that he was violent," he said.
Julie Brazil, Gravity Diagnostics COO and founder, argued: "My employees deescalated 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."
She continued: "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.
"My employees were the victims in this case, not the plaintiff.”
This week a jury awarded the former employee $450,000 (£350,000) in damages.
The compensation for the former employee's wages and benefits totalled $120,000, emotional stress $300,000 and $30,000 was given to him for front pay.
Bucher told McClatchy News how the former employee feels like he got 'the vindication that he deserved'.
He said: "Few people will know how much courage it took for him to take this case all the way to trial.
"More than the financial award, I believe [he] was so happy and relieved that the jury recognised that he was not some violent and menacing person and that it was not okay for Gravity Diagnostics to just assume that he was without any evidence to support those misconceptions."
Gravity Diagnostics has since challenged the verdict based 'on the discovery of juror misconduct violating trial judge's orders, and then an appeal if necessary'.
UNILAD has reached out to Gravity Diagnostics for comment.
If you're experiencing distressing thoughts and feelings, the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is there to support you. They're open from 5pm–midnight, 365 days a year. Their national number is 0800 58 58 58 and they also have a webchat service if you're not comfortable talking on the phone
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