This case demonstrates how the press often misleads the public about employment law civil rights cases. Here is the headline from the April 15th Lexington Herald Leader:

From reading that headline one easily might think that a jury issued a verdict for an employee just because he was unhappy with his birthday party. That would be ridiculous, of course. And, it’s not true.

Reading the full text of the article, it turns out that

“Days before his birthday in August 2019, an employee at a Kentucky-based laboratory asked his office manager to not arrange a celebration for his birthday. It wasn’t the fear of getting older, but rather an anxiety disorder that can spur “panic attacks in stressful situations,” according to court documents. The employee, who was hired in October 2018 by Gravity Diagnostics, did not want a celebration because “being the center of attention” can trigger his disorder, the documents state. When the company threw him a lunchtime party against his wishes, it triggered a panic attack and he left abruptly to spend his break in his car. Four days later, after his office managers confronted him about his reaction to the party, he was fired from the Northern Kentucky company, court records show.” —Read the Article Here

So, the real story is that the company wrongfully fired an employee simply because he has an anxiety condition and ask his employer for a little understanding. His career likely suffered serious harm because now he has to explain the circumstances of his termination to all subsequent employers.

Headlines like the one used in this case are a big part of why many believe that employee rights lawsuits should not be taken seriously or that lawsuits in general need to be restricted. In fact, the opposite is true. It is incredibly difficult for employees to protect or vindicate their rights in the American legal system. Misleading press stories like this one make it all that much harder because they confuse and mislead members of the public who may sit on jury panels.

Nobody should be bullied by their employer. All employees deserve to be treated with dignity and respect in the workplace. Unfortunately, that often is not the case. Fighting back and standing up to bullying and wrongful termination is hard but it’s the right thing to do.

And it’s not something that a news editor should make light of just to get a few website clicks.