On Tuesday, the doctor filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against Harris County alleging discrimination "based on his race and national origin" was a factor in him losing his job. He is seeking more than $1 million in monetary relief.
According to the civil lawsuit, his superiors "declared that Dr. Gokal did not ‘equitably’ distribute the vaccine and that Dr. Gokal gave the vaccine to too many individuals with 'Indian' sounding names."
Dr. Gokal was terminated from his job at Harris County Public Health System after prosecutors allege in late December 2020, he stole a vial containing nine doses from a vaccination site in Humble. A week later, authorities said Gokal told a fellow Harris County Public Health employee, who then reported him to supervisors and led to him getting fired.
Back in February, Dr. Gokal told FOX 26 his side of the story, where he admitted to taking an opened vial of the Moderna vaccine off-site, to administer doses to friends and family who qualified. These vaccines would have expired in six hours if they went unused.
The civil lawsuit says after the vaccine site shut down for the day on Dec. 29, 2020, Gokal asked onsite staff if anyone wanted to be immunized with the remaining 10 doses of a vial punctured at 6:45 p.m.
"All onsite staff had either been vaccinated or declined to receive the vaccine," the lawsuit reads. "Dr. Gokal then called Trey Frankovich, Senior Analyst at HCPH and Dr. Gokal’s superior in command, and told him that he was going to find individuals to give the vaccine to and Mr. Frankovich replied, 'Ok, good.'"
The doctor was able to line up 10 individuals who fell in the at-risk categories to administer the vaccine to before the six hours was up. He "inoculated two individuals at his home. He then traveled to the homes of five other individuals to give them the vaccine. After returning home, he immunized two additional people. The last individual Dr. Gokal had lined up couldn’t make it prior to the vaccine spoiling," so he administered the last dose to his wife, "who has a significant underlying health condition."
"My experience comes from emergency medicine where, at the end of the day, my patient's life always trumps any issues and questions, that arise," Dr. Gokal said to FOX 26 in February. "We always err on the side of human life and that’s what I tried to do."
The case garnered national attention as the Texas Medical Board cleared him of any wrongdoing and the initial lawsuit was thrown out by a judge.
It was also subsequently picked up by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.
The new lawsuit claims HCPH fed misinformation to both the County Attorney’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office.
Here are the examples claimed in the suit:
- Dr. Gokal administered the vaccine to friends and family
- Dr. Gokal stole multiple vials of the vaccine
- The protocol in place was to bring leftover doses back to HCPH offices
- Dr. Gokal gave out 13 doses of the vaccine
- HCPH had a waitlist of employees to be given any extra doses
- HCPH had a policy addressing the situation
- Dr. Gokal had plans to steal more vaccines
- Dr. Gokal was short dosing individuals
In late June, a grand jury declined to indict the doctor on any charges, which meant he could begin putting the case behind him, but when FOX 26 spoke to Dr. Gokal then, he said it would not clear his name just yet.
"When this happened…I was completely blindsided and this news went out throughout the world but the follow-up stories and what happened afterward and the fact that I was cleared by one judge and now this, may not necessarily get to those people who only know me as ‘the guy who stole the vaccine’ as was presented in the beginning, and that’s unfortunate and it’s unfair," Dr. Gokal told us in late June. "I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to get over that part properly and whether or not it’ll have an impact going forward but it certainly is on my mind."
The lawsuit also claims Dr. Gokal suffered discrimination and hostility on behalf of HCPH based on his South Asian race and Pakistani national origin.
HCPH told FOX 26 that they will not be providing comment at this time.