Medical lab worker wins $450K in disability discrimination suit

A former lab technician who was fired from Covington, Ky.-based Gravity Diagnostics won $450,000 in a jury trial for a suit that alleged the lab discriminated against him over a mental health condition, The New York Times reported April 17.

The worker, Kevin Berling, had been employed at the lab for about 10 months when he asked the office manager not to throw him a birthday party because he had an anxiety disorder, the report said. But other employees planned a party while the office manager was away.

He had a panic attack when he learned about the planned celebration, and he chose to spend his lunch break in his car, away from the festivities, the report said.

The next day during a meeting in which two supervisors confronted him about his behavior, Mr. Berling had another panic attack. He was sent home for the day without his key fob, and security personnel were told that he wasn't allowed to return.

He was fired three days later over allegedly violent behavior in the meeting, the report said. Mr. Berling claimed the behavior described was his effort to calm himself, including a move his lawyer described as having his fists closed and up around his chest, "almost hugging himself."

A lawyer for the lab said the case didn't meet the standard for a disability claim because the technician had never disclosed his anxiety disorder to the company, the report said. The lawyer also said the technician didn't meet the legal threshold to qualify as having a disability. The lab is challenging the verdict.

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