When he was told that his kidneys weren't functioning anymore, Martin Cupid says that he would only agree to a potentially life-saving medical treatment if it allowed him to continue his 40-hour-a-week job as a night manager for Sysco Corp.'s food processing plant in Riviera Beach, Fla.
"I like working," he told The Palm Beach Post. So Cupid, a 32-year-old resident of Boynton Beach, Fla., didn't want to go to a hospital for dialysis, a process that's needed to cleanse the blood when a person's kidneys can't. Instead, he pushed for a process known as "self-dialysis," introduced in the 1970s, which allows patients go on a dialysis machine in the home.
Cupid also applied for a kidney transplant at Shands Transplant Center at the University of Florida. And when he was told that he was being approved for a transplant in April 2011, his bosses congratulated him, he says. But three days later, the father of three was laid off. Gone was the $72,000-a-year salary, and the vital health insurance needed to help pay the cost of his transplant.
"After working there 10 years and giving so much. It was shocking," Cupid told the Post. "It was unbelievable."
The firing was also in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act, Cupid's lawyers say. Passed in 1990, the ADA requires employers to make "reasonable accommodations" for disabilities that include a health problem like Cupid's, his counsel argues. "He can still work a 40-hour week," his lawyer, Dan Boswell, said. Boswell has since filed a disability discrimination suit on Cupid's behalf in U.S. District Court.
For its part, the Houston-based food manufacturer hasn't responded to requests for comment from the media. But it did tell the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that Cupid's firing was really a result of recession-related cutbacks. However, Boswell told the Palm Beach newspaper that company records show that only four other Sysco workers have been laid off recently because of the economy, and that downsizing happened months before -- in January 2011.
Since having lost his job, Cupid has become stuck in a wait-and-see situation. He expects to hear back any day from Tampa General Hospital if they will put him on their organ transplant list. (That hospital accepts his wife's insurance policy, which Shands wouldn't.)
While a secretary for the Atlantic Automotive Group in Long Island, N.Y, Stevens told her boss, Jackie Brucia, in 2010 that she was willing to be a kidney donor. Brucia eventually took her up on the offer.
Though Stevens ended up donating her kidney to another party who was a better match, that allowed Brucia to move up on the waiting list for a transplant. Once the surgeries were completed, however, Brucia purportedly began pushing the still-recovering Stevens to return to work. Brucia then proceeded to fire her.
Stevens responded by filing a complaint in April with the New York State Division of Human Rights alleging that she'd been manipulated by her boss. "I felt I was giving her life back," Stevens told the New York Post.
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