On Tuesday, a marketing and communications executive who lost his job at a North Carolina-based health care system and claimed it was because he was a white male was awarded $10 million by a federal jury.
In his 2019 lawsuit, David Duvall argued that Novant Health’s diversity efforts led to him being replaced in July 2018. “The jury said that Duvall proved that his race and gender were motivating factors in Novant Health’s decision to terminate him, according to the jury’s verdict form. The jury also indicated that Novant Health failed to prove that it would have dismissed Duvall regardless of his race,” the Winston-Salem Journal reported.
“Duvall said in his lawsuit that he was fired in 2018 without warning or explanation shortly before his fifth anniversary with the company. He said he was replaced by two women, one Black and one white. Duvall, who worked in Mecklenburg County, accused Novant of violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits race and gender discrimination in the workplace,” WXII 12 noted.
“His attorneys proposed that he was fired ‘out of the clear blue sky’ because he was a white man, and that the move was in keeping with the hospital’s ‘five year plan’ to boost diversity by 2020. They said he wasn’t the only white executive fired; in his complaint, he says the Chief Legal Officer, Medical Group President, Chief Information Officer, Patient Experience Officer and President of Haymarket Medical Center were all replaced either by a black person or a woman in the 12-18 months after him,” the Daily Mail added.
Duvall’s attorney, S. Luke Largess, celebrated after the verdict, asserting, “We are pleased that the jury agreed that Duvall’s race and gender were unlawful factors in his termination — that he was fired to make room for more diverse leaders at Novant. … Duvall was a strong advocate of diversity at Novant. We believe the punitive damages award is a message that an employer cannot terminate and replace employees in order to achieve greater diversity in the workforce.”
Novant Health had countered that Duvall’s poor leadership skills led to his firing. Megan Rivers, a spokeswoman for Novant Health, responded to the verdict, saying, “We are extremely disappointed with the verdict as we believe it is not supported by the evidence presented at trial, which includes our reason for Mr. Duvall’s termination. We will pursue all legal options, including appeal, over the next several weeks and months.”
She added as she defended the company, “Novant Health is one of thousands of organizations to put in place robust diversity and inclusion programs, which we believe can co-exist alongside strong non-discriminatory policies that extend to all races and genders, including white men. It’s important for all current and future team members to know that this verdict will not change Novant Health’s steadfast commitment to diversity, inclusion and equity for all.”