Gift of life costs woman her job

Associated Press

SILVERDALE — A woman has been fired for taking time off near the holiday season to donate a kidney and save her mother’s life.

"I was devastated," said Nancy Bevilacqua, who underwent the procedure with her mother, Sharon Kibler, on Oct. 15.

Mother and daughter are doing fine, so they are finding reason to be thankful.

The procedure was originally scheduled for July, and Bevilacqua’s employer — the Minneapolis-based clothing chain Christopher &Banks — approved the time off. In fact, the manager of the store in the Silverdale Mall, who hired Bevilacqua as assistant manager in January, helped rally staff to cover her position.

The change came when the surgery was postponed until closer to the busy winter holidays.

"Allowing the leave could have created a precedent whereby other leaves not covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act, which were denied, could have resulted in a perception of discrimination," said John Prange, vice president of human resources for the 353-store chain.

"We empathize with her situation."

Bevilacqua hadn’t worked long enough to qualify for Family Leave Act benefits, the company said. She’d been employed just under 10 months, and the federal law requires at least a year.

Bevilacqua told a Seattle newspaper that when she asked why she previously had been granted the leave, she was told: "That was July. This is the Christmas season."

Prange didn’t dispute that. Last summer, he said, "business staffing needs were less critical."

Then Kibler, 62 and a diabetic for 25 years, started having trouble with dialysis. The July surgery was deemed too risky and canceled at the last minute.

But Kibler’s health improved and doctors decided to proceed.

Six days before the surgery, her boss told her she was fired.

Full recovery for Kibler and her daughter will take two to three months. In the meantime, they’re staying in an apartment close to the hospital. They will be officially discharged Dec. 1.

Bevilacqua, who has four children by a previous marriage, can’t collect unemployment because she is still recuperating and unable to look for work. So she and her husband, who has two jobs, are living paycheck to paycheck, she said

Prange said Christopher &Banks would welcome Bevilacqua back.

She won’t be applying.

"I do not want to work for a company with such a low opinion of human life," she said.

Copyright ©2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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