A New York woman donated a kidney after learning another was in need, and subsequently found herself out of a job. In an unusual situation, the 47-year-old woman has now initiated a lawsuit against her former employer.
The complaint was filed Apr. 20.
Deborah Stevens had worked for the Atlantic Automotive Group for over a year before her family relocated to Florida, reports WPTV News. Reportedly, she left the job in 2010 on good terms.
During a later visit back north, Stevens had visited her former employer to say hello, at which time she learned her former boss, Jacqueline Brucia, 61, was ill and in need of a kidney donor.
Stevens told Brucia she'd be willing to donate. Brucia declined and said she had someone, but said, something along the lines of "you never know" and maybe taking her up on that offer someday.
A few months later, the Stevens family decided to return to New York and Stevens asked to be rehired at her previous job. Brucia appointed her to a position a few weeks later and Stevens was brought back to the car company in Nov. 2010.
In Jan. 2011 Brucia reminded Stevens of the offer to donate a kidney and asked if it was a serious offer. Stevens followed through on her offer to donate a kidney. While Stevens was not an exact match for her boss, she donated to another person, moving Brucia up higher on the transplant list. She underwent surgery and donated her left kidney in Aug. 2011 to a stranger on the National Kidney Registry. Brucia was matched with another donor.
Recovery was tough, Stevens said. She returned to work four weeks following the surgery and was in a lot of pain and needed additional time off. At this time her boss allegedly "turned on her," reported Reuters.
"She just started treating me horribly, viciously, inhumanly after the surgery," Stevens said, reported ABC News. "It was almost like she hired me just to get my kidney."
"I don't have words strong enough or large enough to describe her treatment of me," Stevens said. "Screaming at me about things I never did, carrying on to the point where she wouldn't even let me leave my desk. It was constant, constant screaming."
Allegedly, while Stevens was at work, Brucia was recuperating and working from home, called Stevens after leaving early one day three days after her Sept. return, "You can't come and go as you please."
Brucia returned to work in Oct. 2011 and Stevens alleges the discrimination escalated.
Stevens claims she was berated, demoted, relocated 50 miles away and, ultimately, fired. She had tried the Human Resources Dept. route and this office admitted other employees had noted Brucia's cruel treatment of Stevens. The decision was Brucia had been with the company a long time and was not going anywhere, and the result was Stevens ending up being moved to another dealership. Shortly afterward, she was reportedly fired for "performance" issues.
Now she's filed a formal complaint [pdf], courtesy of CBS News, with the New York State Division of Human Rights against both Brucia and the Atlantic Automotive Group. Being with one kidney, Stevens is now considered disabled due to the "various intestinal, digestive, and neurological after-effects of the kidney removal system."
She feels she was discriminated against due to her restrictions and needs following the surgery she underwent to donate her kidney, claiming a violation of New York State Human Rights Law and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Brucia told CBS News she "will always be very grateful that she gave me a kidney. I have nothing bad to say about her. She did a wonderful thing for me. And I wish her the best."
WPTV reported Stevens said if she could do all over, she would not. Stevens feels she was "groomed" to be a "back up plan" after the original kidney donor was denied.