Paramedic who went to N.Y. takes fight over firing to court

Tuesday, October 02, 2001

By Marylynne Pitz, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

A Duquesne paramedic who spent two days assisting police and firefighters to sift through the rubble of the World Trade Center in New York City was told that he had been fired from his job when he returned.

Paul S. Fogle, who has worked for Duquesne Emergency Medical Services since April, claims in a lawsuit that his boss initially approved his plan to volunteer in New York but then told him he would lose his job. Fogle also is a volunteer paramedic with White Oak Volunteer Rescue.

The lawsuit, filed yesterday in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court, claims Fogle learned he had lost his job in a text message that appeared on his mobile phone. The message, Fogle claims, came from his boss, Mark Nemerovsky, who also ordered him to return any Duquesne equipment he had.

Nemerovsky, executive director of Duquesne Emergency Medical Services, denied he had fired Fogle during a telephone interview yesterday.

"I'd like to know who told him he was fired because I never said he was fired. I never told Paul or anybody else that he was terminated," Nemerovsky said.

Normally, Fogle works a 24-hour shift on Mondays and a 16-hour shift on Thursdays. On the day of the terrorist attacks, Fogle telephoned Nemerovsky to say White Oak Volunteer Rescue was raising funds to go to New York, the lawsuit says.

Fogle claims his boss told him it would be fine if he volunteered in New York.

At 7 p.m. Sept. 12, Fogle called Duquesne EMS, spoke to a fellow paramedic and said he would not be reporting for his Sept. 13 shift. Duquesne EMS requires paramedics to call off at least eight hours in advance. Fogle made his call 12 hours before his shift was to begin, the lawsuit claims.

While traveling to New York, Fogle received a voice mail message from Nemerovsky, who said his job was in jeopardy and to call immediately. Fogle returned the call and Nemerovsky told him that if he failed to show up for his Sept. 13 shift, he would lose his job, the lawsuit says.

Fogle told his boss he was en route to New York with a White Oak rescue team and that it could not turn around.

Nemerovsky again told Fogle that unless he returned, he would be fired. Then, Nemerovsky told Fogle to "have a nice time in New York," according to the lawsuit.

Fogle is seeking more than $25,000 in lost income and benefits and compensatory and punitive damages.

Nemerovsky said yesterday that Fogle did not say he was going to New York.

"If he'd have told me he was going to go, that would have been a lot easier," Nemerovsky said. He added that Fogle also failed to follow proper procedure in calling off for his Thursday shift.

"You have to call off to the executive director. He did not," Nemerovsky said.

Some Duquesne EMS personnel donated blood and were on standby, awaiting a call from Allegheny County's Emergency Operations Center or the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Association, Nemerovsky said.

But that call never came because so many other people had already gone to New York, Nemerovsky said.

Duquesne EMS did not want to leave its own community unprepared for a terrorist attack, he said.

"What if Pittsburgh would have been a target the next day?" Nemerovsky asked.

Samuel J. Cordes, a lawyer for Fogle, said firing someone for performing a public service would be akin to punishing someone for serving on a jury.

"The guy was pulling bodies out of rubble. He wasn't there to have fun," Cordes said.