David Duvall, a white man from Michigan, sued his former employer Novant Health in a North Carolina court alleging that he faced reverse discrimination in his wrongful termination and won $10 million. NBC News reports Duvall sued the not-for-profit health company in 2019 after he was fired from his senior vice president of marketing and communications position one year prior.
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David Duvall sued Novant Health in North Carolina, where he had served for five years as Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications and was praised by colleagues and supervisors, in 2018.https://t.co/OT6j0mGABd
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According to court documents, the former executive says he was fired because of his race and gender “as part of an intentional campaign to promote diversity in its management ranks,” according to CBS News. Duvall was replaced by one Black woman and one White woman. He argued the office was in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
“Defendant’s termination of Plaintiff on account of his race and sex directly violated this express public policy of the State of North Carolina. Thus, the termination of Plaintiff was wrongful and unlawful under state law,” the complaint states.
Novant Health, which owns 15 medical buildings with over 1800 physicians, denies the allegations in the suit. The company says Duvall was fired because of deficient performance and passing off his critical duties to subordinates.
“We are extremely disappointed in the verdict, as we believe it is not supported by the evidence presented at trial, which includes our reason for Mr. Duvall’s termination,” a Novant Health spokesperson said in a statement. “We will pursue all legal options, including appeal.”
Duvall was hired by the company in 2013 and was approaching his five-year anniversary when he was let go “without prior warning.” According to CNN, Novant Health’s severance policy states any executive fired without cause would be given at least a 30 days notice of the company’s decision.
“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,” the company spokesperson told CNN in a written statement. “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.”
A jury ruled in favor of Duvall, agreeing that race and sex were a motivator in his firing. The jury also added that Novant Health didn’t do enough to prove that it would’ve made the same decision if race and/or gender weren’t a factor.
Duvall was awarded $10 million in punitive damages, but his attorney says their win in court isn’t a message against diversity or initiative programs.
“The jury learned that Duvall was a strong advocate of diversity and inclusion at Novant; he sat on an executive committee that supported the initiative and his team provide marketing for the program. That was one irony in his termination, his belief in Diversity and Inclusion. But such programs have to be run lawfully,” Luke Largess said.
“We believe the punitive damages award was a message that an employer cannot terminate and replace employees simply based on their race or gender in order to achieve targets for greater diversity in the workforce. It is plainly unlawful and harmful and that was obvious to the jury,” he added.