Commonwealth of Kentucky, Kenton Circuit Court Division IV,
Case No. 19-CI-01631
April 15, 2022
Keywords: adverse employment action, lost wages and benefits, mental pain and suffering, anxiety disorder, panic attacks, disability, employment termination, reasonable accommodation, disability discrimination
Summary and Facts of the Case
Five days before his birthday, Kevin Berling asked his employer Gravity Diagnostics, LLC, not to have a birthday party for him.
Gravity Diagnostics, LLC went ahead and arranged a lunchtime celebration on Mr. Berling’s birthday against his wishes. When Berling found out there would be a party, he had a panic attack and did not attend.
The next day, Berling was called into a meeting with two of his coworkers. He was confronted by them about how he reacted to the birthday party. This meeting resulted in another panic attack, and Berling was sent home for the rest of the day and the day after.
A few days later, Berling was fired from his job.
Berling sued Gravity Diagnostics in Kenton County Kentucky Circuit Court, claiming disability discrimination under Kentucky Revised Statute 344.
Issue of the Case
- Was Berling’s anxiety disorder a disability under Kentucky law?
- Did Berling suffer a negative employment action (being fired) because of a disability?
- Was Berling’s firing the result of discrimination because of the disability?
Berling asked for a jury trial, where the jury decided that his anxiety disorder was a disability as defined under Kentucky law.
The jury also decided that firing Berling due to his anxiety disorder was an act of disability discrimination.
The jury awarded Berling $450,000, which included: $120,000 in lost wages and benefits; $30,000 in future lost wages and benefits; and $300,000 for past, present and future mental pain and suffering, mental anguish, embarrassment, humiliation, mortification, and loss of self-esteem.
Policy and Practice
An employer who fires an employee because of an anxiety disorder may be in violation of Kentucky’s law regarding adverse employment actions and disability discrimination. This case also has implications for Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
- Complaint, Trial Order and Judgement: Berling v. Gravity Diagnostics, LLC