A former Philadelphia paramedic claims that her employer violated Pennsylvania's
whistleblower laws when it terminated her employment after she complained that her partner had been intoxicated when he got behind the wheel of an ambulance.
Valerie Sakr, of Devon, filed a civil suit at the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas on April 28 against Keystone Quality Transport Company, which manages EMStar Medical Transport, a private emergency services company located in Philadelphia.
According to the complaint, in early November 2013 Sakr arrived to begin her morning shift when she detected a strong odor of alcohol coming from her partner, who was assigned to drive the ambulance. After filing a complaint with her manager, Sakr claims she was told by management to get in the ambulance with her partner.
Shortly after leaving the premises, her partner almost crashed into another vehicle, according to the complaint. Sakr says she demanded her partner stop the ambulance and called her manager, who directed them to return to headquarters.
Her partner was administered a drug test, which showed he had a .07 blood alcohol content. The legal limit in Pennsylvania is .08, but the complaint says that the test was given four hours after the start of the shift, when the level would have been higher.
A few days later, Sakr filed a complaint with the county department of health over the incident, which was then referred to the state department of health. According to the complaint, Sakr was later brought into a meeting by her manager and a human resources representative, who attempted to force her resignation.
According to the 2007 Pennsylvania Whistleblower Law, an employer cannot retaliate, discriminate or discharge an employee who files a good faith report about possible wrongdoing or waste at the workplace.
Sakr says that after she refused to give up her position, EMStar managers retaliated by making arbitrary changes to her schedule, reassigning her to the company's most outdated vehicle and not allowing her to use the most current equipment. She also claims that a vacation request submitted in September 2013 had been denied, even though other employees' requests had been fulfilled.
When Sakr called out sick for two days with bronchitis, she had been removed from the schedule for the next two weeks, according to the suit. Her manager later accused Sakr of falsifying a doctor's note, which was later authenticated by her physician. Finally, in February 2014, Sakr had been removed from a scheduled shift, the suit claims. When she called to ask for a reason, Sakr was informed that her employment had been terminated.
Sakr is seeking compensation for lost and future wages and coverage of court costs and attorney fees.
The plaintiff is represented by Philadelphia-based Sidney Gold & Associates.
The case ID number is 140403380.