CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — A Cranston-based dentist who was denied an exemption from the state’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers has filed a lawsuit against Gov. Dan McKee and the R.I. Department of Health.
Dr. Stephen Skoly has been battling the state since the mandate went into effect Oct. 1, which forced him to shut down his oral surgery practice.
In the lawsuit, he claims the state is “acting unconstitutionally and being irrational and arbitrary by denying his medical exception from the vaccine,” and also preventing him from seeing patients.
“I’m just asking to get back to work,” Skoly said Monday. “In conjunction with it, I’m asking that they recognize acquired immunity and recognize the science going forward so that others in my position can get back to work as well.”
The New Civil Liberties Alliance, a nonprofit civil rights organization based in Washington, D.C., filed the lawsuit on Friday, asking for a temporary restraining order that would allow Skoly and his 10 staff members to return to their Cranston office and begin seeing patients again.
The lawsuit mentions Skoly’s history of Bell’s palsy and notes the “scientifically demonstrated association between the COVID-19 vaccination and the onset of bell’s palsy paralysis.”
Skoly said the state denied his exemption request because Bell’s palsy is not listed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a known side effect of the vaccine.
“It’s not the way I like to roll. I’ve never sued anybody. The fact that now the governor with the blessing or oversight of the general assembly is seeking to extend the mandates, I really had no choice,” Skoly explained. “I want to get back to work. I feel like I’ve abandoned my patients, my staff, and even my profession.”
12 News reached out to McKee’s office and the Health Department for comment on the lawsuit, but spokespersons for both offices said they’re not going to comment on pending litigation.
Skoly had a hearing Monday morning with the Department of Labor and Training about why he’s being denied unemployment benefits and said he was insulted by their response.
“I was stunned when he said, you could apply for a job at Walmart. If I paid into the system as a State of Rhode Island citizen for 34 years and the state is preventing me from working, I should be able to collect unemployment,” he said.
A virtual federal hearing was held early Monday afternoon and Skoly says he is now waiting for the judge to make a decision.