47-year-old Debbie Stevens was employed as an assistant to Jackie Brucia (above), a West Islip controller for dealership operator Atlantic Automotive Group, for a year an a half before moving to Florida.
She visited the dealership some time later, and Brucia informed her she was searching for a kidney donor. "She said she had a possible donor, a friend or something," Stevens recalled. "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.'"
After returning to Long Island later that same year, she was rehired by Brucia. In January 2011, her boss decided to take Stevens up on her offer. "I did not do it for job security," she said. "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."
But Stevens was not a match for Brucia, so she worked out an arrangement with doctors that would allow her to donate her kidney to a transplant candidate in Missouri in exchange for bumping Bruica up the waiting list.
It paid off: Brucia found a donor in San Francisco.
Stevens, meanwhile. developed health problem following the surgery. Doctors had apparently struck a nerve, which caused Stevens pain, discomfort, and digestive problems. Still, she says she was forced to return to work before fully recovering.
Once back, Stevens says Brucia began treating her progressively worse. "She just started treating me horribly, viciously, inhumanly after the surgery," Stevens said. "It was almost like she hired me just to get my kidney."
Mostly Stevens remembers the screaming. "Screaming at me about things I never did," she said, "carrying on to the point where she wouldn't even let me leave my desk. It was constant, constant screaming."
She was fired shortly after her attorneys sent a letter to Atlantic Automotive Group concerning her mental stress.
Stevens now plans to sue AAG for millions. "We're alleging they discriminated against her for her disability and they retaliated against her when she complained about the harassment," said civil rights lawyer Lenard Leeds.