In California, private ambulance companies provide about 75 percent of all emergency rides.
Paramedics and ambulance employees with those private companies are required to remain on call during breaks. That will continue if voters pass Proposition 11.
But there is language at the tailend of the measure that could have a negative impact on pending worker liability lawsuits against ambulance companies, according to the Legislative Analyst's Office.
It stems from a 2016 California Supreme Court ruling that made it unlawful for security guards to remain on call during breaks. Similar lawsuits have been filed by paramedics and ambulance workers against companies, who claim they fall under the same labor laws and industry practices.
Now a liability protection clause within the proposition would define the past industry practice of on-call meal and rest breaks as legal. Therefore, companies could potentially avoid facing legal costs from the lawsuits.
“It is not ok to bury a liability protection clause,” said Jason Brollini, the executive director for United EMS Workers Local 4911. “And to scare the citizens of California saying that ambulances are not going to respond because we want our meal periods is intellectually dishonest.”
Proponents say protection clauses are not unusual, and that they are regularly seen in legislation.
Supporters, like former emergency room nurse Carol Meyer, say the main concern should be on public safety. Meyer said if the proposition fails, there could be slower response times if the closest ambulance workers are taking a mandatory break.
“That ambulance may be three minutes away, five minutes away, ten minutes away,” Meyer said. “The bottom line is, is that its further than the one that’s around the corner.”
Brollini argues there won’t be any change to response rates.
“They’re going to respond to calls whether this initiative passes or fails because our providers are professional,” he said.
The measure would also require every emergency ambulance employee to receive annual training on how to respond to natural disasters, active shootings, and terrorism. Employees would also receive annual mental health and wellness education.