Novant Health must pay $10M to former exec in discrimination case

A former Novant Health executive who claimed in a lawsuit he was fired to help the organization reach diversity goals was awarded $10 million by a federal jury Oct. 22.

In the lawsuit, filed November 2019, David Duvall, former senior vice president of marketing and communications, alleges he lost his job at the Winston Salem, N.C.-based system in 2018 without warning and shortly before his five-year anniversary despite receiving positive performance reviews.

Mr. Duvall, a white man, was allegedly replaced by two people: a white woman, who became chief communications officer, and a Black woman, who was hired to lead marketing efforts, according to the lawsuit.

In the Oct. 22 decision, the jury decided that Novant Health failed to prove that the health system would have dismissed Mr. Duvall regardless of his race. 

"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," a Novant Health spokesperson told Becker's Hospital Review. "We will pursue all legal options, including appeal, over the next several weeks and months."

"We are pleased that the jury agreed with Mr. Duvall that his race and gender were unlawful factors in his termination - that he was fired solely to make room for more diverse leaders at Novant Health," a spokesperson from Tin Fulton Walker & Owen, the law firm representing Mr. Duvall, told Becker's. "The lawsuit was only about the need to run such programs lawfully. We believe the punitive damages award was a strong message that an employer cannot just fire employees based on their race or gender to create opportunities to achieve diversity targets. That is plainly unlawful and very harmful and that is what the jury denounced here."

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