N.Y. Mom Fired After Donating Kidney to Help Her Boss
Debbie Stevenson, 47, mother of two, fired after she gave a kidney to help boss.
April 23, 2012 -- A New York Long Island woman said she was fired after she donated a kidney to help save the life of her boss.
Debbie Stevens, a 47-year-old divorced mother of two, filed a formal complaint with the New York State Human Rights Commission last Friday, claiming her boss used her for her organ then fired her "after the woman got what she wanted." Stevens' boss, 61-year-old Jackie Brucia, is one of the West Islip controllers for Atlantic Automotive Group, a billion-dollar dealership operator. Brucia hired Stevens in January 2009 as an assistant.
"She just started treating me horribly, viciously, inhumanly after the surgery," Stevens told ABCNews.com. "It was almost like she hired me just to get my kidney." Although Stevens turned out to be less than a perfect kidney match for Brucia, Stevens donated her organ to an out-of-state stranger so that Brucia could move up on the organ donor list.
Stevens left the company in June 2010 to move to Florida. She returned to New York in September to visit her daughter, and decided to stop in at the dealership, according to the complaint. It was during this visit that Brucia told Stevens of her need for a kidney transplant.
"She said she had a possible donor, a friend or something," Stevens said. "But I told her if anything happened that I'd be willing to donate my kidney. She kind of jokingly replied, 'You never know, I may have to take you up on that one day.'"
A few months later, Stevens moved back to Long Island and asked Brucia if she had any job openings. Brucia hired her within weeks.
Then, in January 2011, Stevens said her boss called her into her office and asked if she was serious about donating her kidney.
"I said, 'Yeah, sure. This isn't a joking matter,'" Stevens said. "I did not do it for job security. I didn't do it to get a raise. I did it because it's who I am.
"I didn't want her to die," Stevens said.
When tests revealed that Stevens was not the best match, doctors agreed to let her give her kidney to someone in Missouri, which gave Brucia a higher place on the organ donor list.
Stevens underwent surgery on Aug. 10, 2011. She said doctors hit a nerve in her leg, causing her discomfort and digestive problems.
She returned to work four weeks later, and said that's when the problems began.
"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."
Stevens said she was demoted and moved to a car dealership 50 miles from her home. She said the mental stress got even worse, with her supervisor calling her an "actress."
"It got so bad that I'd start to tear up at times," Stevens said.
After consulting a psychiatrist for her mental stress, Stevens' hired attorneys who sent a letter to Atlantic Automotive Group.
Stevens was fired within a week.
When reached by ABC News, AAG referred all calls about the case to Jackie Brucia, Stevens' supervisor, who could not be reached for comment, at either the car dealership or her home. It is not known whether Brucia has legal representation at this time.
Stevens' attorney, civil rights lawyer Lenard Leeds, said he planned to file a discrimination lawsuit against AAG, and would likely seek millions of dollars in compensation.
"Our ultimate goal is to bring this before federal court," Leeds said. "We're alleging they discriminated against her for her disability and they retaliated against her when she complained about the harassment."
Leeds said the damages sought will be for Stevens' lost pay, psychological and physical well being.
"I have no comment on her. I'm just going walk ahead and live my life," Stevens said.
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