New York woman fired after donating kidney to help boss

NEW YORK Tue Apr 24, 2012 6:46pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York woman who donated a kidney so her ailing boss would move up the transplant waiting list says she was fired shortly after the operation, according to a complaint she filed with the New York State Division of Human Rights.

Deborah Stevens said her former employer, Atlantic Automotive Group, discriminated against her over disabilities brought about by complications from the surgery, and she plans to sue the company for lost earnings and damages.

The company, which runs car dealerships on Long Island, said Stevens's complaint is groundless.

"My gal is just a good-natured woman who's trying to save a life and as soon as she did it, everything changed," said Stevens' attorney Lenard Leeds on Tuesday.

"When she wanted to take time off, she was scolded, she was yelled at," he said. "Instead of being sympathetic, they were very hostile towards her."

Stevens, of Hicksville, New York, said she learned that Jacqueline Brucia, who worked at Atlantic Automotive, was in need of a kidney in November 2010. Stevens had worked there as well but at the time had temporarily moved to Florida.

Stevens said she told Brucia she would donate a kidney.

"Brucia declined, but told her, ‘You never know, I may have to take you up on that offer one day,'" the complaint said.

Stevens learned the company would rehire her following her return to New York and not long afterward, Brucia told her a potential donor had not been approved by the hospital and asked if she was still willing to donate.

Stevens now believes Brucia was "grooming (Stevens) to be her ‘back-up plan,'" the complaint said.

Stevens's kidney was not a good match for Brucia, but she agreed to donate it to a stranger in St. Louis, Missouri, setting up a transplant chain that enabled Brucia to receive a better-matched kidney from a donor in San Francisco.

Surgeons removed Stevens's left kidney in August, and she returned to work about a month later. The surgery left her with damaged nerves in her leg, digestive problems and mental health issues, her lawyer said.

At work, Brucia became "curt and dismissive," the complaint said. Stevens said she was berated for taking sick days and forced to relocate to a less desirable office after she complained to human resources about Brucia's behavior.

On April 11, the company fired her, citing performance reasons.

Stevens's lawyer said the complaint filed with the Division of Human Rights last week was a necessary step before a federal lawsuit is filed against Brucia and the company.

Telephone calls to Brucia's home were not answered on Tuesday.

Atlantic Automotive released a statement saying: "It is unfortunate that one employee has used her own generous act to make up a groundless claim.

"Atlantic Auto treated her appropriately and acted honorably and fairly, at every turn," it said.

(Editing By Ellen Wulfhorst and Eric Walsh)

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Comments (5)
MetalHead8 wrote:
Wow thats dirty

Apr 25, 2012 12:11pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
wendy007 wrote:
Only in America.
Perhaps the Virginia lady who won the lottery twice could help this generous woman out?

Apr 25, 2012 1:21pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
KidneyDonor wrote:
I donated a kidney to a stranger and now have a project to help others who need a kidney.

I know very many people who have donated a kidney – including donors from my kidney matches. No one got fired from this job. This is very rare and I don’t think that anyone should be afraid to donate a kidney out of fear of being fired. However, maybe not a bad idea to discuss with boss and maybe get it in writing, that you would not get fired for donating a kidney . I don’t know if this is possible. There needs to be some sort of protection for donors as it is not fair to get forward for doing a great deed like this.

Chaya Lipschutz
Kidney Donor & Kidney Matchmaker.

Apr 25, 2012 4:23pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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