Debbie Stevens, gave her kidney to a man on the donor list so her boss could secure a match. Was she rewarded? Promoted. Nope. This is corporate America. You can be fired even if you literally give a piece of yourself for your job.
Instead of rewarding her, the boss started pressuring her to come back to work even though she didn’t feel well and was still recovering. Once she got back, they took away her overtime, demoted her, and transferred her 50 miles from her home. She hired a lawyer to try to resolve the matter. The lawyer wrote a letter, and she was fired.
I know I’ve talked about at-will employment and being able to legally fire employees for any reason or no reason at all. Does that mean you can be fired after you donate your kidney to your boss? Not necessarily. Here are just some of the claims she might have:
Discrimination: If the employer failed to accommodate her recovery and then retaliated when she needed extended time off, she might have a claim under the Americans With Disabilities Act. Under that law, the employer must grant a reasonable accommodation, including extended leave, unless it can show an undue hardship. Retaliating against her after her return with a pay cut, demotion and transfer would also likely be a violation.
Family and Medical Leave: If she was out for 12 weeks or less, then she’s likely entitled to recover under the Family and Medical Leave Act, which requires that she be restored to the same or an equivalent position once she returns from leave. Unless there were substantial cutbacks while she was gone, they’ll have a hard time arguing the position was equivalent. Even a distant transfer without a demotion is probably not considered equivalent. If she was out 12 weeks and one day or more, she’s probably out of luck on FMLA claims.
Fraud: Did the boss promise continued employment or even favoritism if she gave of herself? Maybe. If that happened, she might claim fraud.
Breach of contract: If the boss offered her anything specific, such as continued employment or a promotion, in exchange for the transplant, there might be a breach of contract claim. Although contracts in exchange for body parts may well be against public policy and unenforceable.
Personally, I think the courts should allow her to repossess. But since the recipient wasn’t involved in all this, she’s probably out of luck with that. In a perfect world, the court would have the power to make the company find her a replacement kidney to make her whole.
This isn’t even the worst firing I’ve ever heard of, but it’s up there. The employer should be ashamed, but I’m sure they’ll fall back on the old canard of at-will employment.
To borrow from Joseph Welch (a victim of McCarthyism), I have to ask the employer what I hope the jury will ask: At long last, have you left no sense of decency?
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