A former Gravity Diagnostics employee was recently awarded $450,000, ending a discrimination and retaliation lawsuit he filed against the company.
Birthday parties. Some people love them, some people don’t. For some, being the center of attention can trigger anxiety and even panic attacks. For example, one former Gravity Diagnostics employee experienced a panic attack when his office manager arranged a birthday celebration at his office against his wishes and sued the company as a result. He was recently awarded $450,000 in damages for emotional distress and lost wages that resulted from his alleged wrongful termination shortly after the birthday party fiasco.
What happened? According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff asked his office manager not to plan a birthday party for his August 2019 birthday. Apparently, the employee has an “anxiety disorder than can trigger panic attacks in stressful situations.” The suit further stated that the employee “did not want a celebration because being the center of attention can trigger his disorder.” However, Gravity Diagnostics threw him a party during the lunchtime break anyway. As a result, the employee experienced a panic attack “and he left abruptly to spend his break in his car.” A mere four days later, he was approached by his office managers and terminated from the company.
Shortly after the incident, the employee filed a lawsuit against Gravity Diagnostics and recently won his case with a $450,000 settlement. When asked about the incident, Julie Brazil, the founder and chief operating officer of Gravity Diagnostics, pushed back against the allegations and said “it was the other employees who were victimized.” She added:
“My employees de-escalated 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…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.”
The plaintiff’s attorney, Tony Bucher, chimed in on the matter and said “when the employee left the office on Aug. 7 to spend the remainder of his birthday lunch in his car, he texted his office manager asking why she failed ‘to accommodate his request to forego the standard birthday celebration.’” Bucher added that the plaintiff was later confronted by two of his superiors and criticized for “how he reacted to the birthday party he did not want.” The plaintiff ended up having another panic attack after the confrontation, and a few days later he received an email stating “he was being terminated because of the events of the previous week.”
As a result, the company caused the employee to “suffer from a loss of income and benefits and emotional distress and mental anxiety.” That’s why the lawsuit was filed, claiming disability discrimination and retaliation. Of the $450,000 award, $120,000 is for lost wages and the other $300,000 is for “past, present, and future mental pain and suffering, mental anguish, embarrassment, humiliation, mortification, and loss of self-esteem.”
When commenting on the settlement, Bucher 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 recognized 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.”