Madison - St. Clair Record

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Air ambulance service accused of overtime pay violations by nurse, paramedic in proposed class action

State Court

By John Breslin | Oct 14, 2019


HIGHLAND - An air ambulance service stands accused of denying their nurses and paramedics rightful compensation by failing to pay proper overtime rates.

A couple, including one who still works for the company, allege Air Methods Corporation, which has locations across Illinois and the country, had its employees sign an agreement where they were not paid despite being on base and on call.

MIchael Gretzinger, a flight paramedic who still works for the company, and his wife Angela, a nurse, filed suit in Madison County Circuit Court and have asked for the action to be certified as a class, or collective, on behalf of themselves and all other employees "similarly situated."

"We are in receipt of the complaint," Megan Smith, a senior account director with public relations firm, AC Marketing, told the Record on behalf of Air Methods. "It is our policy not to comment on pending litigation."

The couple, from Mascoutah in St. Clair County, are alleging violations of the Illinois Minimum Wage Act, claiming that, as non-exempt workers, they and their colleagues are entitled to time and a half for all hours over 40 hours worked in a week. Colorado-headquartered Air Methods, which operates its helicopter service at approximately 300 bases in 48 states, according to the complaint, is also accused of unjust enrichment.

In their filing, the plaintiffs, both of whom began working for the company in 2014, reveal what they claim forms the core of their complaint, and which led to employees routinely working more than 40 hours, and not being paid properly.

Employees, it is alleged, had to sign an agreement where they were obliged to work a 24-hour shift, but with the caveat that there was a sleep time of eight hours within that period. Dormitory and kitchens were sited on the base, which in this present case was Highland.

However, the Gretzingers claimed that the sleep period was not considered as time worked unless it was interrupted by a call. Then the nurses and paramedics would be paid for their time.

Employees had to "remain at the facility base and be 'on call' for medical emergencies," the complaint states.

It further notes language in the minimum wage statute that states that an agreement between an employer and an employee that leads to pay that is less than the statutory overtime is not a defense against an action.

The plaintiffs state that they and all others in the same situation "suffered economic harm," and that, under the law, each is entitled to three times the amount of actual monetary loss, plus five percent for every underpayment for each month.

They also asked the court to certify a class action and enter judgment for violations of the minimum wage law, and award damages for unjust enrichment.

The Gretzingers are represented by Mark S. Schuver of Mathis, Marifian & Richter of Belleville.

Madison County Circuit Court case number 2019-L-1414.

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