Alberta health care workers file $125M class action lawsuit against AHS over pay, working conditions

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A group of healthcare workers has launched a class-action lawsuit against Alberta Health Services, alleging the agency violated the Employment Standards Code by overworking and underpaying them.

The lawsuit was filed on April 26 in Court of King’s Bench in Calgary on behalf of clinical assistants (CA) as well as clinical and surgical assistants (CSA) and seeks damages of up to $125 million.

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The workers allege that between 2013 and 2022, AHS consistently informed them verbally and in writing that they were exempt from overtime time, which they say was against provincial legislation. They further claim they routinely worked shifts longer than 12 hours, and in some instances as long as 24 hours.

In Dec. of 2022, AHS reversed course and stated it would provide overtime pay as well as a lump sum payment for overtime work dating back to April of 2022.

The suit argues that represented only a partial payment and that wages going back to 2013 remain unpaid.

“As the largest employer in Alberta, AHS must know they continue to be in contravention of the law by denying these hard-working medical professionals fair pay and a safe working environment,” Ariel Breitman, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said in a news release.

“AHS needs to acknowledge these historical and ongoing transgressions against the men and women who care for us when we are in need and come to the table to work towards a fair resolution that ensures proper compensation for these workers.”

The workers argue Alberta’s Employment Standards Code gives them the right to overtime pay, rest periods, and work shifts not exceeding 12 hours barring exceptional circumstances.

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Postmedia has sought comment from AHS.

The statement of claim indicates there are around 228 workers currently at AHS who would be part of the class action as well as an unknown number who are no longer work for the agency.

The class action has not yet been certified and the workers’ claims have not been tested in court.

On its website, AHS describes CA and CSAs as “mid-level provider(s) under the supervision and direction of physician supervisor(s) to provide acute care coverage.”

It lists common job duties as conducting physical exams, writing order, documenting patient history, and in the case of CSAs, provide pre- and post-operative care as well as surgical assistance during operations.

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