Ambulance drivers have one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. At any given time they are expected to drive through traffic using any route possible, and also speed through red lights while mainting a consistently fast speed. Imagine you are an ambulance driver rushing to save a life, only to receive a speeding ticket in the mail. This is what allegedly happened with a private firm that is going viral for all the wrong reasons.
Details Behind the Elite Ambulance Class Action Lawsuit
A class action lawsuit allegedly accuses Elite Ambulance, a large private company, of illegally taking money from the paychecks of its paramedics and EMTs. The lawsuit claims that the company did not challenge the red light and speed camera tickets that the workers received while responding to emergencies with lights and sirens. Instead, the company deducted the cost of the tickets from the workers’ pay without their permission.
According to WTTW News, Attorney Ramsin Canon, who represents the plaintiffs, said that the company’s practice was unfair and unjust. “These are people who are doing life-saving work as paramedics and EMTs,” he said. “We know that sometimes they need to move faster than the traffic, so this should not be a surprise … It seems like the company just did not want to bother with appealing those tickets, or they just did not want to pay for them themselves.”
The lawsuit names two EMTs and one paramedic as plaintiffs. The two EMTs said that they refused to agree to the deduction after they were informed about it. The paramedic said that he was not notified at all.
The company did not respond immediately to a request for comment on the lawsuit. The plaintiffs said that each ticket they got on the job was for $100.
Paramedic Pablo Acevedo, one of the plaintiffs, said that his priority was always to take care of the patient in an emergency. He said that he did not worry about whether he would get a ticket for running a red light or speeding with his lights and sirens on. He said that he was angry about the deductions when he was new at the company, but he did not protest.
He said that he later learned from other employees that the practice had been going on for years. He also said that he noticed an increase in the number of deduction waivers that the company forced on the workers in the past six months. He said that he and other paramedics were frustrated by this practice as they grew older. “This is just not fair practice,” he said.
Canon said that small amounts like these could make it hard to pursue cases of alleged wage theft. “Unscrupulous employers rely on the idea that people are not going to be willing to go to court to recover $100, $200,” he said. “That’s why class actions are so important, because they make sure that everyone gets compensated in this case … and also that there are penalties.”
According to WTTW news, the lawsuit needs to be certified as a class action by a judge. According to its website, Elite has 2,000 employees and 175 ambulances working in Chicago and Northwest Indiana. This means that the class size and the amount of money involved in any judgment against the company could be significant.
The workers who are part of the lawsuit started talking about the alleged wage theft during a unionization campaign. Last month, they filed for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board.
Acevedo said that they had other problems at work, such as management not providing enough equipment or medication for their vehicles. He also said that low pay made it hard for many first responders to afford living in Chicago.
“The current average pay in this field is already so low and without unionization, emergency health workers are never going to be able to make the money that they deserve,” he said. “A lot of workers are forced to work 75 hours a week, sometimes 40 hours of overtime just to be able to afford having an apartment in Chicago.”
Canon said that joining a union or taking legal action could help employees exercise their rights at work. It’s not often you see the behind scenes aspect of being EMT or paramedic getting spilled out on national news and social media.