A former top healthcare executive in North Carolina was awarded $10 million in a 'reverse' discrimination lawsuit over his claim that he was unfairly fired because he is a white male, according to Winston-Salem Journal.
David Duvall, a former senior vice president of marketing and communication at Novant Health, sued the North Carolina-based company in 2019 after losing his job in July 2018 due to its campaign to diversify top execs. He said he was fired without warning or explanation (just days before reaching his five year work anniversary, a milestone that would have awarded him a higher severance payout than what he was given).
The federal jury found Novant Health failed to prove that it would have terminated Duvall regardless of his race.
"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, said in a statement.
In court papers, Novant Health tried to argue that Duvall was fired based for poor performance. Two women replaced him - Kate Everett, a white woman in the company who was promoted to Chief PR and Communications Officer, and Vicky Free, a black woman who gained the position of Chief Marketing Officer.
Duvall, in his complaint, said both women were qualified for the job but no more than he was. However, being fired without notice so the hospital could fulfill its five-year plan to boost diversity was wrong.
"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."
Novant Health, whose headquarters is in Winston-Salem, was "extremely disappointed with the verdict" as the jury sided with Duvall. There was no indication of whether Novant Health would appeal the verdict.
The lesson to be learned is that employers are at risk of 'reverse' discrimination lawsuits if they unfairly terminate white men, as seen in Duvall's case. The hospital's rush to boost diversity will cost them $10 million.