A Kentucky jury has awarded $450,000 to an employee who suffered from panic attacks due to an unwanted birthday party organized by the company.
According to the article in the Lexington Herald Leader, the male employee had already informed the office manager not to organize a party for his birthday.
The male employee was recruited in October 2018 by Gravity Diagnostics based in Kentucky, which provides innovative laboratory testing.
The lawsuit described the employee suffers from an anxiety disorder that can cause panic attacks during stressful situations. Because being the center of attention can prompt his disorder; he refused the celebration.
However, Gravity Diagnostics organized a lunchtime celebration against his request, which caused a panic attack, and he left abruptly. Subsequently, he spent his lunch break in his vehicle.
The lawsuit further described that the employee was subsequently called to a meeting with two senior supervisors who confronted and criticized him for his behavior during the birthday celebration, which he did not request. The confrontation caused another panic attack.
He was then sent home for the next two days. Although he has apologized for the panic attack, the company informed him by e-mail on 11th August that he was fired considering the incidents of the prior week.
He later sued the company based on disability discrimination and retaliation. His attorney stated the company caused his client to suffer from emotional distress, loss of income, benefits, and mental anxiety.
Accordingly, the jury awarded $450,000 as damages, including $300,000 for previous, current, and future suffering, mental pain, humiliation, loss of self-esteem, embarrassment, and $120,000 for lost salary.
Despite the jury’s verdict, the founder and chief operating officer of Gravity Diagnostics, J. Brazil, alleged that it was the other employees who were mistreated during the incident.
She further stated that the company has zero tolerance for any violation of their Workplace Violence Policy and considers employee safety a top priority. Accordingly, they have terminated the plaintiff according to the company’s workplace violence policy.
The plaintiff’s attorney, T. Bucher, stated that he believes that his client is happy that the jury has recognized him as a non-violent and menacing individual.
Bucher further stated that it was inappropriate for the company to regard him as a violent person without evidence to support such misunderstandings.
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