A Stanford University scientist is suing his former employer for allegedly terminating his employment due to his political advocacy against COVID-19 lockdowns.
Dr. Ram Duriseti, currently a clinical associate professor at Stanford University, also worked for 22 years as a physician in the pediatric emergency department at Stanford Health Care (SHC) until he was required to resign in November 2022. SHC cites Duriseti’s failure to comply with the COVID-19 vaccine booster mandate, which he determined “would be medically disadvantageous in his circumstances” after reviewing literature, as the reason for his termination, but he believes his advocacy of dissenting COVID-19 views is the real issue.
“SHC ignored Dr. Duriseti’s booster status for many months, just as it overlooked and continues to overlook other employees’ noncompliance,” the lawsuit states. “Instead, SHC terminated Dr. Duriseti for engaging in political activity relating to COVID-19 policy that was at odds with SHC’s own policy preferences.”
Duriseti engaged in numerous activities that contradicted SHC’s stance on COVID-19, including signing the Great Barrington Declaration, a document by dozens of public health scientists pushing back on lockdown policies; writing op-eds challenging issues like school mask mandates; testifying as an expert in anti-mandate lawsuits, including Calvary Chapel Church’s case against Santa Clara County; speaking out at the State Capitol in opposition to a bill to increase indiscriminate COVID-19 testing in schools; and joining ReOpen SUHSD, a local advocacy group that supported in-person learning.
When Duriseti’s request for an exemption to the booster mandate was denied on Aug 8., he was told he had until Aug. 12 to submit proof of compliance, according to the lawsuit. Months passed without word or enforcement. On Nov. 11, Duriseti learned for the first time that he had been suspended as off Aug. 12 and that a “voluntary resignation” would be imposed the next day.
During the interlude between Duriseti’s exemption request and termination, he was targeted by a group called “No License of Disinformation,” who contacted the SHC on Sept. 22 to complain about his views and persisted to harass him online, the lawsuit says. A physician in Department of Emergency Medicine leadership allegedly stated they were aware of group members’ “work against misinformation” when Duriseti notified them of the issue.
The lawsuit notes that both SHC and Stanford University were “hostile to those with dissenting views on COVID,” citing Dr. Jay Bhattacharya’s January 2023 Tablet Magazine article.
“The same priests of public health that have the authority to distinguish heresy from orthodoxy also cast out heretics, just like the medieval Catholic Church did,” he wrote. “Top universities, like Stanford, where I have been both student and professor since 1986, are supposed to protect against such orthodoxies, creating a safe space for scientists to think and to test their ideas. Sadly, Stanford has failed in this crucial aspect of its mission, as I can attest from personal experience.”
SHC and Dhillon Law Group, the firm representing Duriseti, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
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