Man awarded $450,000 after his office threw an unwanted birthday party that gave him a panic attack

Originally published at: Man awarded $450,000 after his office threw an unwanted birthday party that gave him a panic attack | Boing Boing


I have a birthday cake phobia too, but every year there it is daring me to eat it.

P.S. Good for him, they were assholes for firing him.


I literally threatened to not buy a Saturn if they brought all of the employees in to clap like the insipid commercials. The salesperson was crestfallen and everyone gave me side eye when I was handed the key in silence. But that silence was golden. Car turned out to be a turd, though.

I feel for this guy; it’s great that he knows his triggers for anxiety attacks, but screw those guys for being dicks about his reaction to their oversight.


This is a frustrating headline (though I’ve seen worse elsewhere today) — they were awarded $450k after being wrongly-terminated after having a panic attack at a birthday party they said they didn’t want. I know that it’s a lot to put in a headline, but the termination is really the important part.


“the person who was responsible for the birthday parties who he talked to flat-out forgot about his request”.

That’s what computers are for, to keep track of stuff like that and food allergies.

The managers that dumped on him as a killjoy for quietly slipping out are probably those kind of extroverts that think loudly feel that everyone should be like them.


“You told us you didn’t want the party and we forgot. We’re very sorry about the mistake, and in the future we’ll be doing XYZ to make sure this kind of thing doesn’t happen again. Please feel free to take Friday off (paid) and have a nice long weekend to recover from our mistake.”

End of story. The moral: don’t be a dick.


office space i would set the place on fire too if i didnt get my cake GIF by Maudit


Why the hell are we having birthday parties at work in the first place? The appropriate people to be throwing birthday parties are your friends and family; if those people happen to also be your co-workers, the appropriate time is after business hours. Enforced frivolity during work hours saps certain folks’ morale, myself among them. I can’t STAND that shit.


Indeed; Personally, if I’m going to endure a party for celebrating my advancement towards being worm food, I’m going to do it with people I like instead of people I’m paid to merely tolerate.


Same here. I’ve worked in places that had a person or a committee in charge of that. If they asked for my birthday details I refused to tell them when it was. I also let them know that if they went to HR to get my private information from employment records, there would be a major problem. Back then I made a point of not working on my birthday as a gift to myself, so they’d have no chance to annoy me.


I did exactly the same thing for twenty years over three different jobs. (Taking the day off, that is). Also, my other world-shattering (not) irritation was the swapping of xmas cards throughout the office.
I mean, I can barely stand you the other 364 days, now you want a card?


I don’t really have an objection to having birthday celebrations at work. If it’s a company, with people who genuinely all like each other, why not? It should never be forced on anyone, and no one should ever be forced to attend, but I don’t have a fundamental objection to the celebrations themselves. In fact, my fear is that this company will take the wrong message from this lawsuit, and ban all such celebrations, regardless of purpose, for fear of another lawsuit. And the problem with that is that they will be leaving the root cause of this problem, management’s uncaring attitude towards the needs and wants of their employees, unaddressed.


But when has that ever been the case? I like some of my co-workers a lot; most I tolerate; one or two I can’t stand. I doubt that most people’s work situation is that different.

That sounds good in theory. In practice, the pressure to attend and participate with gritted teeth behind a rictus plastered on one’s face is usually indistinguishable from a mandate. It’s also normally the case that these events are organized by one or two office busybodies who just can’t understand why everyone doesn’t share their enthusiasm, while the rest of the office just goes along with it, because it’s easier than rocking the boat.

So, win/win! :wink:


No, it isn’t a win/win, because, as I said, the root cause of the problem has been left unaddressed, and the company will continue to ignore its employees’ needs. So, no birthday celebrations, but they’ll continue to treat their employees like shit.


One of my best moments as a manager was when HR came by and told me to pass a birthday card around my department for one of the team. This had been a point of irritation and frustration for a while.

I told them no. They were frankly shocked. I just said my team has made it clear they want to opt out of this tradition; that coming up with something funny or interesting to write in everyone’s card every year is emotionally draining, and reading the cringey comments in the cards given to them was no fun. They just chucked them in the recycling.

The HR manager was pretty angry with me, but my colleagues applauded. It’s such a silly, minor thing, but it’s stuff like that can be just one of a million things that sap you dry of energy and emotional investment at big corporations.

I can’t imagine the hell this guy went through and it seems like, if anything, he was undercompensated for this shitty experience.


a jury awarded Berling $450,000

That seems excessive…

the company, “informing him that he was being terminated because of the events of the previous week”

Okay, maybe not. It started with an unpleasant mistake, but everything after that… whooo boy.

Having a panic attack over a birthday celebration is pretty extreme - I’m guessing there’s a story behind that (possibly a number of stories)… which he doesn’t owe anyone.

Yeah, it can get hurtful, too. I worked for a new company that started off (awkwardly) celebrating some birthdays and then they… didn’t (finally realized it was a bad idea, I guess), but as a result only some workers had a “party,” and it ended feeling like they decided, “well, we acknowledged the important people.” I know someone who worked in a small office where they had a birthday party for someone who didn’t even work in that office anymore (and who attended only virtually), but then no one even mentioned her own birthday, leaving her feeling less than appreciated, even though she really hadn’t wanted a “party” to begin with (not that anyone knew that).


It wouldn’t last. Any company where they’d do a formal reprimand process for ducking out on his own unwanted party, before doing a simple informal query, is far too wedded to shitty group bonding exercises.

Within months, the head of HR would find another job, the new one would be told to avoid “those kind of people”, the ban would disappear, and they’d never ever confront the root cause.


One less shit sandwich to eat is a net positive in my book.

Also while the initial birthday incident appears to be an honest mistake, management response is where the issue is. Other news sources note that management said he “was being a little girl”, and are now claiming he was fired because of concerns over workplace violence (which he and his lawyer deny, and note that management is likely calling his anxiety/panic response the concern for violence…).

Also, Kentucky again…
I’ve been trying really hard recently not to fall into the regional bias thing, but Kentucky, you’re making it really hard for me…


I worked for one company that had an annual event called Employee Appreciation Day. Most work activities were shut down, unless there was an emergency. The company had it catered with specialty foods, organized a lot of games, and the owner (along with members of upper management) basically did the grunt work for a change. The winners of the games won prizes - some monetary, others just company merch. It was also the day when teams were recognized by their peers for contributions made during the previous year (awards show style).

I was only there for the final one before it ended, because the company was sold to a competitor. My co-workers said it had been more elaborate in the past, but it was interesting to me. I’d worked for many firms before and after that and attended holiday parties or company picnics for the staff, but none captured that same mood. So, it is possible to treat employees well without birthday parties and other office celebrations that hit workers in the wallet*. Management just has to want to make it happen.

*Having showers of any type in the office or collections to buy a gift for any manager/boss was something else I wished would die in a fire.