A Pakistani doctor who was accused of stealing Covid-19 vaccines and giving them to friends and family members is now suing Harris County in Texas for discrimination for more than $1 million.
Dr. Hasan Gokal was fired by the Harris County Public Health after it was reported that he allegedly stole 10 doses of the Moderna vaccine that was close to expiration while working at the county vaccination site at Lyndsay Lyons Park in Humble on December 29, 2020. He was charged with misdemeanor theft by a public servant.
Abuse of Position?
Earlier, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said in the statement, "[Gokal] abused his position to place his friends and family in line in front of people who had gone through the lawful process to be there. What he did was illegal and he'll be held accountable under the law."
However, a judge initially dismissed the charges against him, and in June, a grand jury determined that no criminal charges were warranted against Gokal. The Texas Medical Board also dismissed a complaint against him in March, reported BuzzFeed News.
Gokal is now suing Harris County Public Health for discrimination. The suit will reportedly seek damages in excess of $1 million for what Dr. Gokal claims is mental anguish, economic loss and loss of reputation.
Discrimination on Basis of Race
According to the Courthouse News Service, Gokal claims the agency discriminated against him due to his race and national origin in violation of the Texas Labor Code, as its personnel director told him he "did not 'equitably' distribute the vaccine and gave the vaccine to too many individuals with 'Indian' sounding names."
The lawsuit, filed on Tuesday, accuses HCPH of providing misinformation to the district attorney's office and the Texas Medical Board to justify firing Gokal, saying that he "went through a tortured six-month criminal investigation during which time his reputation was tarnished, his confidence was shattered, and he and his family were subjected to emotional distress."
What Does the Lawsuit Say?
The lawsuit says, "HCPH's position: Dr. Gokal should have thrown the 10 leftover doses in the trash rather than, as HCPH says, giving it to people of Asian (specifically South Asian or Indian) descent. Living by the Hippocratic Oath and his own morals to err on the side of saving a life, Dr. Gokal, after approval from a superior, used the 10 doses to immunize 10 individuals."
The lawsuit further states, "Dr. Gokal gave the vaccine to those who were considered "at-risk" and who he could immediately give it to before its expiration, which would have rendered the vaccine unusable. And he did so without race in mind, but solely in terms of at-risk individuals he could give the vaccine to as quickly as possible."
It also states that Gokal is finding it hard to get another job after HCPH's "misinformation campaign" turned potential employers away.