A proposed class action lawsuit filed on behalf of clinical assistants and clinical surgical assistants has been filed against Alberta Health Services.
A statement of claim filed in Calgary King’s Court on Aug. 12 alleges the health authority has failed to pay overtime or provide rest periods to clinical assistants since 2016.
The claim alleges that AHS breached and continues to breach the terms of the employment contracts and its duty of care to the representative plaintiff and class members.
Robert Erickson, attorney for plaintiff Rep. Julia Ionina, said he and his client are not willing to comment at this time.
AHS spokesman James Wood said AHS cannot comment as the case is before the courts. On Wednesday he told Breaking: that no statement of defense had been filed.
The proposed class action seeks $10 million in general damages, $85 million in special damages and $10 million in punitive damages, plus costs and interest.
The statement of claim says that the plaintiff and class members discovered that they had not been paid the overtime and shift bonuses to which they were entitled when they received an email from AHS on December 23, 2022.
The email said they would receive retroactive pay for overtime they had previously worked and would continue to receive overtime payments.
“Defendant contended that plaintiff and active class members were ineligible to receive overtime despite making partial retroactive payment and paying partial overtime payments to plaintiff and active class members thereafter,” it says. the statement of claim.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
Doctors trained abroad
Clinical assistants and clinical surgical assistants are foreign-trained physicians who work under medical supervision in Alberta. Base salaries, according to an AHS website about jobs, range from $63,000 to $155,000.
Your duties include perform physical examinations, write orders, document patient histories, and develop treatment plans with supervising physicians.
Ionina, from St. Albert, Alta., worked as a psychiatrist in Russia before immigrating to Canada in 2012.
She began working as a clinical assistant for AHS around November 2015 at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton.
Since 2017, she has worked as a clinical assistant at Sturgeon Community Hospital in St. Albert.
According to the statement of claim, Ionina must routinely work more than 50 hours a week, and in one week in April five 15-hour shifts were scheduled.
From contractors to employees
Clinical assistants used to be contract workers, but are now AHS employees.
In 2015, Sarah Hoffman, then Alberta’s health minister, told Breaking: that AHS had begun the transition after the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta raised concerns about how that role was being managed.
A group of clinical assistants filed a lawsuit against AHS in 2015, accusing the health authority of discrimination.
Jim McFadyen, a lawyer with the Edmonton office of Parlee McLaws, said the lawsuit was discontinued.
Clinical assistants are not unionized in Alberta. The statement of claim says his terms and conditions of employment are outlined in a manual, which states that “overtime will be paid for any time worked beyond regular work hours.”
The statement of claim says AHS told clinical assistants, verbally and in writing, that they are exempt from receiving overtime pay.
The December 2022 email sent to the plaintiff and some class members said that, according to a different document, which the statement of claim says has not been provided to employees, clinical assistants have not been eligible to receive regular hourly payments. Additional features.
The email said workers would be paid retroactively for overtime worked since April 1, 2022, and would receive overtime payments in the future.
Lorian Hardcastle, a University of Calgary law professor who specializes in health policy, said it’s possible AHS may have changed its interpretation of the legislation or received a legal opinion that prompted the back pay.
“It’s strange that, without some change in their understanding of the law, they would have simply, as a gesture of goodwill, gone and paid people retroactively,” Hardcastle said.
The statement of claim says the retroactive payment was only a partial payment.
Rest periods and shift bonuses.
The statement of claim also alleges that AHS did not allow clinical assistants to take two 30-minute rest periods when they worked more than 10 hours, that they were not paid shift bonuses for working certain shifts, and that they were regularly scheduled to work shifts. beyond. 12 hours and sometimes up to 24 hours.
The handbook for non-union employees says shifts should not exceed 15 hours.
“Regardless of where this legal claim goes, I think Alberta Health Services needs to take seriously the concerns these workers have: that they are not getting enough downtime,” Hardcastle said.
He said there is a lot of literature suggesting that tired healthcare workers are a patient safety issue.
The statement of claim says the claim’s approximately 228 active members risk losing their jobs if they file individual claims and are unable to match AHS resources.