A former top hospital executive claimed he was unlawfully fired because he is a white man. He was awarded $10 million by a federal jury this week, but the health care system vows to appeal the decision.
David Duvall – a former senior vice president of marketing and communication at Novant Health – sued his former employer for allegedly terminating him without warning or explanation right before his fifth anniversary with the company. Duvall alleged that the North Carolina-based Novant Health fired him in July 2018 in an effort to diversify top leadership positions. Duvall – who lives in Michigan – was replaced by one black woman and one white woman, according to the lawsuit.
In Duvall's lawsuit that was launched in 2019, he accused Novant of violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act – which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.
Novant Health said in court filings that Duvall was terminated for deficient performance and the delegation of critical duties to subordinates, NBC News reported.
The Charlotte-based jury sided with Duvall on Tuesday, and said Novant Health failed to prove that it would have fired him regardless of his race and gender, the Winston-Salem Journal reported.
"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," said Duvall's attorney S. Luke Largess.
"Duvall was a strong advocate of diversity at Novant," Largess continued. "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."
"The message is not to abandon diversity and inclusion, it's to do it legally," Largess said.
Novant Health vehemently disagreed with the jury's decision and promised to appeal the ruling.
"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," said Novant Health spokesperson Megan Rivers. "We will pursue all legal options, including appeal, over the next several weeks and months.
"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," Rivers added. "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."