This Boss Is Firing People Who Won't Sign up to Be a Liver Donor for His Brother

This "Ask a Manager" letter is concerning on so many levels. This company's owner is really punishing people if they don't volunteer to donate their liver to his brother.

Robin Zlotnick - Author

Apr. 21 2020, Updated 11:21 a.m. ET

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This seems like a story out of a horror movie. American Horror Story: Workplace. On Ask a Manager, we see a lot of crazy letters from employees wondering if the thing their boss is doing is ethical or allowed, but this is beyond that. This is deranged. This is illegal! This story will make you super glad you don't work for this guy. 

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"I have a situation that is so out there I almost wouldn't believe it if it wasn't happening to me," writes a concerned employee. They go on to explain that they work for a fairly average-sized company with three branches and around 100 employees. The owner of the company has a brother who is in need of a liver transplant. Obviously a very serious thing. But, "two weeks ago, a company-wide memo went out that all employees would be required to undergo testing to see if they were a suitable liver donor for the owner's brother. No exceptions."

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Immediately, that's completely insane and totally unacceptable, right? I'm sure it's devastating when a family member is in need of an organ transplant, but it is an absurd abuse of power to force your employees to undergo medical procedures for personal reasons. It has to be illegal! But the story isn't over yet. Somehow, it gets worse.

"Last week at the branch the owner works out of most of the time, his assistant went around to schedule days off for everyone so they could go get tested," this employee writes. "People who declined were let go. One of these people was born with liver disease and therefore ineligible to donate. She had a doctor's note."

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She literally couldn't do it and even went through the trouble of obtaining a doctor's note — which she shouldn't have done in the first place — and still got fired. "Other people also had medical reasons as well and some were just uncomfortable with the request and didn't want to do it. One was pregnant. They were still terminated."

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The boss's assistant claimed that because the company's employment is "at will," he can legally fire them for not volunteering to donate one of their organs from inside their body. This can't possibly be legal...

The person who wrote in said that they themselves are in remission from cancer. They're also ineligible to donate and besides, surgery would strain their system way too much. "Even if I was healthy," they wrote, "I would still object to possibly being forced into donating an organ just to keep my job. Soon they will be scheduling people's days off for testing at my branch." And they want to know what to do. 

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People are terrified that if they go for testing (which by the way includes hospitals and blood work and all that stuff), they will be a match and then they'll actually feel pressured to go through with the liver donation. That's a major surgery and no one should be forced under the knife if they want to stay employed. I'm positive that was not in anyone's contract when they accepted this job.

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Luckily, the "Manager" of Ask a Manager was just as appalled as you and I are about this situation. "What the actual heck," she writes. "Your boss is both an absolute loon and an incredible jerk. He's also not very smart, since doctors won't accept organ donations from people who aren't willingly and happily volunteering, so all of this ridiculousness will be for nothing." 

I didn't even think about that! Obviously, the doctor will ask the donor if they are voluntarily undergoing this surgery. What will that person say? "Uh, well, I was told I have to volunteer otherwise I'd get fired." I don't think that passes the "willingly and happily" requirement. 

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But we all agree that this is egregiously immoral. The most important question here is: Is it illegal? Ask a Manager consulted with employment attorney Bryan Cavanaugh, who said, thankfully, absolutely it is is illegal. "This employer is violating the Americans with Disability Act (ADA)." Yes, the ADA protects people with disabilities from discrimination, and it requires employers to offer reasonably accommodations to those with disabilities so they can perform their jobs.

But the ADA also forbids employers from making employees submit to medical exams and inquiries unless they are job-related. Obviously, this has nothing to do with the business and everything to do with the company owner's brother. The recommended course of action? Have a lawyer explain this to the employer on their behalf or file a complaint with the EEOC, which is the federal agency that enforces the ADA. 

But also, find another job. As the Manager writes, "Even if this gets quickly settles, you're working with someone who has such a skewed idea of the employment relationship that he thinks he has say over your internal organs. Get out get out get out." Seconded. 

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