How much do you like your boss? Enough to undergo major surgery?
Debbie Stevens did. Described as a "kind and generous" woman, Stevens knew her boss, Jackie Brucia, was in need of a kidney transplant.
Now, according to a new lawsuit, Stevens donated her kidney, and then was fired from her job at a car dealership one month later.
“Because she was naturally a kind and generous person, Stevens told Brucia that, if necessary, she would be willing to donate a kidney,’’ the lawsuit says. “Brucia . . . told her, ‘You never know, I may have to take you up on that offer one day.'"
Brucia had confided in Stevens that she needed a kidney, but that she would find a donor on her own, perhaps a family member. As far as Stevens knew, a donor was lined up. Two months later, that story changed.
“[Brucia] called me into her office and said, ‘My donor was denied. Were you serious when you said that?’" recalls Stevens. "I said, ‘Sure, yeah.’ She was my boss, I respected her. It’s just who I am. I didn’t want her to die.’’
But Stevens wasn't a close match to Brucia, so she couldn't give the kidney. Instead of calling the whole thing off, doctors allowed Stevens to donate her kidney to someone else on the transplant list so that Brucia could move up and get an organ from someone else.
“I felt I was giving her life back,’’ Stevens said. “My kidney ended up going to St. Louis, Missouri, and hers came from San Francisco.”
Even after all of Stevens' selfless acts, Brucia still had the audacity to fire her. But why?
Stevens says she didn't know the kind of pain she would be in after the transplant. Her legs were in serious discomfort and she was having digestive problems. The surgery happened on August 10, and on September 6, Stevens felt pressured to return to work. When Stevens went home sick three days after her return, Brucia called her to berate her.
“She . . . said, ‘What are you doing? Why aren’t you at work?’ I told her I didn’t feel good,’’ Stevens recalled. “She said, ‘You can’t come and go as you please. People are going to think you’re getting special treatment.’ ”
Meanwhile, Brucia was also still at home, recovering from the same surgery. When Brucia did return to work, she began yelling at Stevens in front of coworkers and blaming her for mistakes. Stevens says she was demoted to a car dealership which is 50 miles away from her home and in an extremely high-crime area. Stevens consulted a psychiatrist due to mental anguish, and her lawyers contacted the company. She was almost immediately fired.
Brucia hasn't commented on the lawsuit, but her husband says "she didn't fire anybody."
“[Brucia] turns on her, and she should have been kissing her feet," says Stevens' lawyer, Jason Barbara. The legal team is seeking millions of dollars in compensation and plans to file a discrimination lawsuit.
But despite the turmoil she's endured, Stevens says she doesn't have any regrets.
“I have no regrets [that] I donated a kidney because it saved the life of a man in Missouri.’’