A former senior executive at North Carolina-based Novant Health has succeeded in a legal fight with the company, winning a $10 million lawsuit filed after he claimed he lost his job for being white.
Reports noted Wednesday that David Duvall, the company’s one-time senior vice president of marketing and communications, won his settlement following a decision by a federal jury in Charlotte on Tuesday. In his suit, he alleged that the company pushed him out of his position with no explanation or warning in July 2018 as Novant Health moved to add more diversity to top positions.
“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’s attorney, S. Luke Largess, told the Winston-Salem Journal in a statement.
“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,” he added.
Company officials, meanwhile, had argued that Duvall was replaced because his leadership skills were not up to their standards. Also, according to the newspaper, the company argued that in a deposition, Duvall said he did not think he was being let go on account of discrimination.
A Novant Health representative commented on the jury’s verdict Tuesday, saying the company was disappointed by 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,” Megan Rivers, a company spokesperson, told the newspaper. “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.”
In his suit, Duvall accused his former company of violating Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, a provision that bars both race and gender discrimination by employers, as well as discrimination based on religion and national origin. Hired in 2013, he was let go just shy of his fifth anniversary and was replaced by a black woman and a white woman. Largess said the company fired Duvall before his anniversary to deny him a greater severance package.
“The message is not to abandon diversity and inclusion, it’s to do it legally,” Largess told NBC News.
“Defendant’s (Novant Health’s) termination of (Duvall) for the purpose of improving diversity constituted discrimination based on sex and race,” the lawsuit reads.
The company serves more than 6 million patients annually and has a workforce of more than 35,000, including more than 2,300 doctors at roughly 800 locations across three states.
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