A former North Carolina hospital executive has been awarded $10 million in punitive damages over his claim that he lost his job because he is a white man.
David Duvall worked as senior vice president of marketing and communication at Novant Health in North Carolina. He was fired by the health care system in 2018 and was replaced by two women - one white and another black. In his 2019 lawsuit, Duvall claimed that he was removed from his job in July 2018 because of the health system's diversity efforts.
Racial Discrimination or Gender Discrimination?
Duvall, in his complaint, said he was pushed out of the job without cause "as part of an intentional campaign to promote diversity in its management ranks" and that he was fired due to his sex and race. He alleged that he was fired from his job without any warning or explanation. According to Duvall, the hospital violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits race and gender discrimination in the workplace.
According to his attorneys, Duvall wasn't the only white executive fired. Duvall stated in his complaint that 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 jury agreed with Duvall, and said Novant Health failed to prove that it would have fired him regardless of his race. The jury awarded him $10 million in a reverse discrimination payout.
"We are pleased that the jury agreed that Duvall's race and gender were unlawful factors in his termination â that he was fired to make room for more diverse leaders at Novant," S. Luke Largess, Duvall's attorney, said in a statement to Winston-Salem Journal.
"Duvall was a strong advocate of diversity at Novant," Largess said. "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," he added.
What's the Response of Novant Health?
Novant Health, on the other hand has another version of the story. It claimed that Duvall was fired because he had poor leadership skills. The healthcare company released a statement on Tuesday saying it was "extremely disappointed" and may appeal the decision.
"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," the statement said. "We will pursue all legal options, including appeal, over the next several weeks and months.