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Woman Who Donated Kidney to Boss Gets Fired For Taking “Too Long” to Recover

Woman claims boss harassed her after her kidney donation surgery, even denying her restroom breaks.

Image shows Debbie Stevens who was fired for taking too long to recover from surgery.
Debbie Stevens would file a lawsuit after being fired unfairly after donating her kidney, according to her. Credit: YouTube/@Newsday

A New York woman was fired shortly after donating her kidney to help her boss move up the organ donor list.

Debbie Stevens, a 47-year-old divorced mother of two, launched a lawsuit after her boss, 61-year-old Jackie Brucia, fired her after, as Stevens claims, Brucia “got what she wanted.”

Stevens stopped working for Brucia, who is one of the West Islip controllers for Atlantic Automotive Group (a billion-dollar car dealership), in June 2010 in order for her to move to Florida.

She would return to New York in September of the same year to visit her daughter. Whilst there, she stopped in at the dealership, according to the complaint.

This visit was when Brucia informed Stevens of her need for a kidney transplant. Stevens claims she said that she needed a possible donor, perhaps a friend.

Stevens responded by saying that if it was necessary, she would donate her kidney. Brucia jokingly reacted, “You never know, I may have to take you up on that one day.”

Stevens Agrees to Donate her Kidney

A few short months later, Stevens moved back to Long Island, New York. She asked Brucia if there were any openings at Atlantic Automotive Group. Stevens would get a job there within weeks.

In January 2011, Stevens claimed that her boss, Brucia, called her into her office. This was to ask if she was truly serious about donating her kidney.

Stevens says that she responded, “Yeah, sure. This isn’t a joking matter.” She says she did not offer to donate her kidney for job security or to get an increase in her salary, saying she did it because it’s who she is.

“I didn’t want her to die,” Stevens said. However, early problems arose whenever tests made clear that Stevens was not the best match for Brucia. Doctors agreed to let her give her kidney to a stranger in St. Louis, Missouri.

This, in turn, allowed Brucia to move up the organ donor list. It also allowed her to receive a better-matched kidney from a donor in San Francisco, California.

Stevens underwent surgery on August 10th, 2011. The surgery resulted in a simultaneous kidney donation to Brucia.

The Beginning of the Harassment

Stevens returned to work a short four weeks later. By this time, the problems with Brucia had already commenced. It started whenever Brucia began putting pressure on Stevens to return to work soon after her surgery.

Stevens said that she did not “have words strong enough to describe her treatment of me.” She claims Brucia would scream at her about things that Stevens did not do and would not even let her leave her desk.

Stevens suffered some medical issues after her kidney donation surgery, too. She said that doctors hit a nerve in her leg, leading to abdominal pain, digestive problems requiring frequent restroom breaks, and an inability to lift heavy objects comfortably.

Brucia allegedly refused to provide any accommodations for these medical issues, and generally ignored them. For example, she made Stevens ask for permission before she could use the restroom.

After putting forward a complaint that Brucia had harassed her, Stevens was transferred to another dealership. This dealership was 50 miles from her house. Her mental distress continued, with her new supervisor calling her an “actress.”

The Lawsuit

After consulting a psychiatrist for the distress that Brucia had caused her, Stevens hired attorneys who sent a letter to Atlantic Automotive Group in March 2012.

Stevens would lose her job within a week.

The hope of Stevens’ attorney, Lenard Leeds, was that in filing a discrimination lawsuit against Atlantic Automotive Group, they would win millions of dollars in compensation for the stress that Brucia has caused Stevens and also for lost pay.

Image shows Debbie Stevens with her legal team.
Stevens and her legal team filed a lawsuit after Stevens got fired post-kidney donation. Credit: YouTube/@New York Post

Leeds also said that he hoped to bring the case before a federal court due to the severity of the case. When Stevens brought the case to the New York State Division of Human Rights, they issued a “determination of probable cause” that the American Disabilities Act was contravened. This declaration indicated the seriousness of the case.

Stevens received approval to sue under the American Disabilities Act, something that has to be issued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

After several rounds of deposition and discovery, both parties agreed to settle on September 30th, 2014.

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Written By

Matthew McKeown is a student at Ulster University, in his final year of a BA History degree. His interests include current affairs, politics, and international relations.

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