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Former conductor files suit against LIRR over firing after Jan. 6 Capitol Hill attack

The suit alleges wrongful discharge, defamation and the

The suit alleges wrongful discharge, defamation and the violation of his First and 14th amendment rights. Credit: Newsday File/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

A former Long Island Rail Road conductor who attended the protests before the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol has sued the railroad, alleging he was fired for speaking his mind on political issues, according to court documents.

Steven Rosati, 29, formerly of Lindenhurst, filed the federal lawsuit against the LIRR, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and former MTA chairman and CEO Patrick Foye on Oct. 19 in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. The suit alleges wrongful discharge, defamation and the violation of his First and 14th amendment rights.

Rosati, who was hired by the LIRR in 2018, posted a picture of the lawsuit on his Instagram account last month, along with the comment, "We will win."

The MTA and LIRR declined to comment on the suit. Foye, who left the authority in July, directed requests for comment to the MTA.

Rosati, who now lives in South Carolina, was suspended without pay in January and later terminated after images surfaced of him taking part in the protests against the certification of President Joe Biden’s election victory.

MTA officials said they subsequently learned Rosati was spreading right-wing conspiracy theories on social media. Videos frequently showed him leading conservative rallies on Long Island.

Rosati, who was responsible for enforcing the LIRR’s mask policy on trains to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, has called the pandemic "fake" and dismissed vaccinated people as "losers" in social media posts.

Foye, speaking to reporters about Rosati’s social media posts in January, called his behavior "outrageous, despicable." He added that Rosati’s actions should be investigated.

In his suit, Rosati said he had broken no law and "was simply exercising his First Amendment rights by giving his opinion on current political issues." He noted that his social media posts were made on his own time, away from LIRR property, and not using railroad equipment. Images of Rosati on Jan. 6 show him outside the Capitol building.

Rosati argues in the lawsuit that his constitutional rights were violated because the actions of the MTA and LIRR were "substantially motivated by their disapproval of Mr. Rosati's political viewpoints in support of [former President Donald] Trump and his political campaign."

The LIRR can fire a worker for "conduct unbecoming an employee." The MTA’s code of ethics, as published online, states that employees are "free to participate in the political process on their own time, but there must be a clear separation between their political activities and the discharge of their duties."

The policy also prohibits activities that interfere or are "in conflict with the proper and effective discharge of the individual’s official duties or responsibilities."

Rosati is seeking "compensatory, special and punitive damages" in the suit but does not specify an amount. He has been vocal about his fight with his former employer on social media, often wearing a T-shirt with the message "Steve did nothing wrong."

"I lost my career because I didn’t bend at the knee to the evil of the Long Island Rail Road," Rosati said in an Instagram video posted in July. "I will never bend at the knee to evil. I will only bend to God."

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