Debbie Stevens, a New York based kidney donor, was fired after donating her organ to her boss. Now the 47-year-old divorced mom of two is demanding her kidney back in a lawsuit.
I decided to become a kidney donor to my boss, and she took my heart,'' said Debbie Stevens to the New York Post.
I feel very betrayed. This has been a very hurtful and horrible experience for me. She just took this gift and put it on the ground and kicked it.''
The story of Stevens and her employer Jackie Brucia of the Atlantic Automotive Group is a complicated one.
According to Reuters, the two meet in 2009 while Stevens worked at the automotive company in New York. Stevens left in 2010 for Florida but returned later after deciding to move back to New York with her family.
She asked Brucia if there were any job openings. Brucia rehired Stevens within weeks of the request. That was when Stevens learned Brucia needed a kidney. Stevens offered to donate her kidney but Brucia turned down the offer.
Yet months later Stevens was called into her office. Brucia asked if she was serious about donating a kidney.
I said, 'Yeah, sure. This isn't a joking matter,' Stevens said to ABC News. 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.
However, Stevens was not a perfect match for Brucia. Brucia encouraged her to donate anyway so she could move up the organ donor list. So in January 2011, Stevens donated her left kidney to a man in St. Louis. Brucia eventually received a kidney from San Francisco.
Stevens said the only reason Brucia rehired her in 2010 was to groom her to be her 'backup plan,' reported Reuters.
According to a Human Rights Commission complaint Stevens filed Friday (read it here), Brucia began to harass her after she donated her kidney.
Stevens was in so much pain after her surgery that she took an additional three days off. Brucia called her, berated her in front of other employees, and took away her office.
I don't have words strong enough or large enough to describe her treatment of me, Stevens said to ABC News. 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 was demoted to a car dealership 50 miles away in an area nicknamed Siberia by her colleagues.
She was eventually fired after her lawyers sent a letter to the Atlantic Automotive Group detailing her mental stress.
While it's not illegal to donate a kidney to your boss, it is illegal for a boss to pressure employees to come back to work while they are ill. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, Stevens was entitled to unpaid sick leave.
Stevens says she can no longer afford to pay her medical and psychiatric bills now that her health insurance is set to expire.
I don't know what I'm going to do, she said. I can't afford it -- it's a lot of money. I may have a hard time getting insurance because I donated a kidney. I thought I would be at that job until I retired.
Stevens said she wants her kidney back, even though it would involve at least four surgeries.
You hate me so much, and I'm so despicable-give me my kidney back! said Stevens.
Her lawyer, Lenard Leeds, plans to file a discrimination lawsuit against the company seeking millions of dollars in compensation.
Jason Barbara, another lawyer of Stevens, said [Brucia] turns on her, and she should have been kissing her feet, reported the New York Post.
Atlantic Automotive Group dismissed the claims, calling them groundless.
Brucia says she is grateful for Stevens' donation.
I will always be grateful that she gave me a kidney, Brucia told 1010 WINS-AM radio, according to Fox News. I have nothing bad to say about her. I will always be grateful to her -- she did a wonderful thing for me.