A D.C. firefighter, suspended this week after complaining to a television station that gloves used by firefighters to protect against exposure to the AIDS virus leaked, has returned to work, a fire department spokesman said yesterday.

Greg Ricker of Engine Company 11 said he was told Tuesday night to go home until further notice after officials learned of a conversation the 14-year veteran had with a producer for WJLA-TV (Channel 7).

But D.C. fire department spokesman Leo Givs said Ricker was back at work yesterday. Givs said he had no additional information about the decision to allow Ricker to return to work.

Fire department officials defended their decision to suspend Ricker by saying the department has a right to control its employes' activities while they are on duty. But an official with the union that represents firefighters called the suspension a violation of Ricker's First Amendment right to free speech.

Ricker said he called the television station after recent incidents in which firefighters found blood on their hands after helping injured people, despite the firefighters' use of the protective gloves.

Ricker said he also was concerned about a recent incident in which rescue workers exposed to blood from a person who apparently carried the acquired immune deficiency syndrome virus were not told for three weeks that the person was infected.