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EMS workers punished for media interviews in NYC settle suit

Sep 12, 2023


File: An FDNY ambulance drives on Fifth Avenue during the coronavirus pandemic on May 20, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)

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.

Messages seeking comment were sent to the city law department and the fire department.

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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."

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