Kevin Berling notified his office manager that he had a social anxiety disorder and, accordingly, requested that the company (Gravity Diagnostics of Kentucky) not throw him a birthday party. When the company did throw Berling a birthday party, he experienced a panic attack and, for other reasons relative thereto (which are well worth reading and considering), was subsequently terminated. Berling successfully sued Gravity Diagnostics for disability discrimination, won, and was awarded $450,000 by a jury for lost wages and emotional distress. The company is challenging the verdict.
Business Takeaway: While the case is most certainly an outlier and still may be appealed, one obvious lesson is that the situation was avoidable altogether. In this case, it appears a breakdown in communications was the issue, as employees planned the party while the informed office manager was unaware that they had done so.