Lawsuit: Medic claims she was fired for reporting partner was drunk
She says she told her bosses she thought he was intoxicated before he crashed an ambulance into another car; afterwards she was retaliated against and then fired
By Dana DiFilippo
Philadelphia Daily News
PHILADELPHIA — A paramedic has sued her former employer, who she claims canned her after she reported to city authorities that a colleague drove their ambulance while drunk.
Valerie Sakr, 35, of Devon, filed a whistleblower lawsuit Monday in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court against EMStar Medical Transport, the company that fired her, and Keystone Quality Transport Co., the Springfield, Delaware County-based company that merged with EMStar this year.
Sakr, who began working for EMStar in April 2013, showed up for work one morning last November to find her partner, an emergency medical technician assigned to drive their ambulance, smelling of alcohol, according to the lawsuit. She told her bosses she believed he was intoxicated, but her supervisors told the duo to hit the road anyway, according to the lawsuit. Within minutes, the allegedly drunk ambulance driver nearly crashed into another car, according to the lawsuit.
Her supervisors eventually directed the pair to return to the office and ordered the driver to undergo a blood-alcohol test, which showed his blood alcohol level as 0.07 percent, according to the lawsuit. A driver is considered legally drunk in Pennsylvania at 0.08 percent. But Sakr contends in her lawsuit that her colleague's blood-alcohol test wasn't performed until four hours after she first alerted her bosses that he was drunk, giving him time to sober up.
Sakr reported the incident to the Philadelphia Department of Health three days later, according to the lawsuit. Afterward, she claims in her lawsuit, her bosses suggested she resign, gave her unfavorable shifts, denied her vacation request, assigned her outdated equipment and fired her in February as retaliation.
Steve Barr, president and CEO of Keystone Quality Transport, noted that Keystone and EMStar (two of Philadelphia's largest privately owned medical transport companies) didn't merge until February. "We don't retaliate against employees, so we've never had experience with this sort of thing," Barr said. He directed further questions to EMStar's New York-based owners Daniel Herman and Joseph Zupnik, who couldn't immediately be reached for comment.