EMS workers punished for media interviews in NYC settle suit

Associated Press | March 1, 2023

NEW YORK — Four New York City ambulance workers who said they were disciplined for speaking to the media during the harrowing, early months of the COVID-19 pandemic have reached a settlement in their free speech lawsuit against the fire department and the city, their union announced Wednesday.

The four emergency medical workers — including paramedic Elizabeth Bonilla, who allowed the Associated Press follow her through the first half of a 16-hour double shift in April 2020 — will each receive $29,999, a spokesperson for FDNY EMS Local 2507 said. Additionally, the city will expunge from their records any claim that they violated department rules by communicating with the news media.

The city law department said in a statement that the parties reached a fair resolution. A message left with the fire department was not immediately returned.

Bonilla, along with fellow paramedics Alexander Nunez and Megan Pfeiffer, and emergency medical technician John Rugen, filed a lawsuit in federal court in Manhattan in June 2020 alleging that they had been unfairly punished for giving media interviews about their work on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.

According to their union, Bonilla, Nunez and Pfeiffer were restricted from treating any patients, and Rugen was put on restricted status and suspended without pay for 30 days.

“Our union always believed that the City and FDNY’s case was built upon nothing more than prosecutorial overzealousness,” Oren Barzilay, the president of the local, said in a statement.

Barzilay said that “With this settlement, justice is finally served, albeit a bit cold after nearly three years.”

This article also appeared in the Washington Post and US News & World Report