Minn. paramedic says he was retaliated against for refusing to inject ketamine

Former Woodbury Paramedic Joseph Baker, who resigned due to the alleged retaliation, has filed a lawsuit that also claims training records for EMS certification were falsified by public safety officials


Andy Mannix
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

WOODBURY, Minn. — In a new lawsuit, a former Woodbury paramedic said he was retaliated against for refusing to sedate a citizen with ketamine, and that the city’s public safety leadership falsified training records for police and firefighters required for medical certification — a practice known as the boss using his “magic pen.”

Last year, a police sergeant ordered the paramedic, Joseph Baker, to sedate a citizen with ketamine, which Baker refused to do because he didn’t think the shot was the right course of treatment, according to the civil complaint filed in federal court Monday.

A former Woodbury paramedic claims in a new lawsuit that he was retaliated against by city public safety officials for refusing to inject a patient with ketamine. (AP Photo/Teresa Crawford)
A former Woodbury paramedic claims in a new lawsuit that he was retaliated against by city public safety officials for refusing to inject a patient with ketamine. (AP Photo/Teresa Crawford)

After reporting these issues, Baker’s supervisors retaliated against him, labeling him a “whistleblower” in e-mails, placing him on a disciplinary plan and in one case threatening him with physical harm, according to the lawsuit. Baker quit his job last December in response.

“As a direct result of Plaintiff Baker’s reporting of unlawful irregularities in the EMS, he was subjected to discipline,” the lawsuit reads. “It was clear that the disciplinary measure was to create a situation that would force Plaintiff Baker to quit his job and an environment where no other reasonable employee would report any such wrongdoings in the future.”

Woodbury spokesman Jason Egerstrom said the city has not been served with the lawsuit and would reserve comment until then.

Baker, a former military police officer who lives in Inver Grove Heights, started working as a paramedic for Woodbury in 2018. The city offers a 7% raise for firefighters and police who complete Emergency Medical Services training. In the lawsuit, Baker said he and another employee were asked to teach a paramedic refresher course, and in doing so they learned some people had been certified without actually attending training in the past.

Baker feared untrained workers practicing as EMS could be a threat to public safety, and failing to speak up could jeopardize his own license. In May 2019, Baker and another paramedic wrote a letter to the executive chair of Minnesota’s EMS regulatory board detailing “deficiencies and inconsistencies” with the city’s training records. Baker’s attorney, Kenneth Udoibok, provided the emails to the Star Tribune.

In one case, Baker wrote, three employees were given credit for a 30-hour course, but the instructor listed told Baker he never taught the class. “I am concerned that these errors could affect our ability to work at Woodbury or other EMS agencies,” he wrote.

Baker sent another letter that same day to his supervisor containing the same complaints.

Both Woodbury public safety leadership and the state board ignored his concerns, according to the lawsuit, and his supervisors became upset that Baker had made the complaints.

One EMS supervisor told Baker: “You’re lucky I couldn’t get my hands around your throat on Thursday,” according to the lawsuit.

Baker “was shocked and afraid for his safety and his job,” the complaint states. “The City of Woodbury human resources as well as the EMS leadership were aware of the event but took no corrective action,” and instead blamed Baker for going above their heads.

Baker also reported an incident to his supervisors that occurred on Sept. 22, 2019, in which a police sergeant ordered him to “draw up” a ketamine shot for a citizen. Baker believed the sedative would “deviate from the standard of care expected from a reasonable paramedic,” according to the lawsuit. He was “aware of the public outcry against police officers for compelling paramedics to administer sedatives upon unwilling citizens,” following controversy over reports that Minneapolis police routinely urged paramedics to do so.

In November, the city put Baker on a “progressive improvement plan,” a graduated disciplinary measure. In an e-mail, one supervisor requested Baker’s records reflect he was put on the plan for being a “whistle blower.”

The supervisor wrote that an upcoming meeting with Baker would “validate any issues [Baker] has interpreted with past education and put finality to this issue.”

According to the lawsuit, this meeting was “a ploy to intimidate and discipline” Baker.

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©2020 the Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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