Monocular Paramedic Sues FDNY for Discrimination

A paramedic who has worked for years in the industry as an ambulance driver and medic has filed suit against the FDNY for denying her employment because she only has vision in her right eye.

Nadya Buttigieg, 39, lost her left eye in 1995 in what her complaint describes as a “vicious stabbing incident”. The complaint continued:

With the help of excellent medical treatment, she recovered from the attack, received an artificial left eye and re-developed her visual acuity. Plaintiff has 20/20 vision in her right eye, and has made an excellent adaptation, including without limitation, developing the depth perception required for driving and performing all the functions of a Paramedic.

At the center of her suit is the allegation that the city of New York and FDNY:

unlawfully assumed, without any basis, that Plaintiff could not perform the job because she has a left eye prosthetic. Despite Plaintiff having provided Defendants with proof that she had successfully served as a Paramedic and ambulance driver for over a year, and a report from her treating ophthalmologist attesting that she was fully able to perform as a Paramedic, including driving an ambulance.

Buttigieg also claims that she has recently been hired as a paramedic by the Northshore LIJ Hospital System, which is part of the City of New York’s EMS System that is under the supervision of FDNY. That system includes both public and private entities whose apparatus bear FDNY markings. Quoting from the complaint:

Upon completion of her training period in July 2014, she will be assigned to respond to 911 calls, working alongside, and under the ultimate supervision of, FDNY, in Forest Hills, New York. The ambulance she will be driving will say FDNY 911 on the side. ln addition, Plaintiff Buttigieg will be working for Northshore LIJ assigned to LaGuardia Airport, where she will also be taking 911 calls. In connection with her employment with Northshore LIJ, Plaintiff has a New York City 911 EMS shield. [emphasis added]

The suit was filed July 3, 2014 in US District Court for the Eastern District of New York and alleges discrimination under federal and state law. Oddly enough the suit does not allege a violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act, but rather was filed under the ADA’s predecessor, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. §701 et seq. The big limitation to the Rehabilitation Act is the scope of employers subject to it: the federal government, federal contractors and those receiving federal funds.

Here is a copy of the complaint. Buttigieg v FDNY

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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