This Tuesday, $10 M was awarded as punitive damages to David Duvall, a former executive at Novant Health. He worked as Senior Vice-president of Marketing and Communications at the healthcare facility until he was laid off on July 30th, 2018. Two women, one black and the other white replaced him in a bid to increase workforce diversity at the hospital.
Novant Health is a not-for-profit healthcare system based in North Carolina, having 15 hospitals and up to 18,000 serving doctors. According to the verdict issued by the court, it must pay the huge penalty of $10 M to David Duvall.
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The lawsuit, filed by David’s attorney Luke Largess, alleges that Duvall was “performing at a high level, exceeding expectations” since his joining on August 5th, 2013 until his sudden termination that occurred only “for the express purpose of increasing gender and racial diversity among Novant executives”.
According to Duvall’s claim, He was fired without prior warning and was ordered to leave the premises without any explanation regarding the termination. Novant Health’s Severance Policy clearly states that under normal circumstances, no employee may be laid off without being handed a 30 days notice of termination. Therefore, it is a conundrum as to why the ‘normal circumstances’ condition was not applicable in Duvall’s case.
Largess makes it clear that Duvall’s lawsuit “is not a statement against diversity and inclusion 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 provided 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,” Largess said.
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The Jury ruled that the termination was against the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and was motivated on the account of his race (Caucasian) and sex (male). Furthermore, in a verdict, it was stated that Novant Health had been unable to prove that it would have made the same decision of laying off Duvall regardless of his race or gender.
Novant Health’s Defence
Novant Health pursued the case with their defense being that Duvall was fired, despite his five years at the company, based on his negligence at the position and delegating crucial work to his 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 stated, “We will pursue all legal options, including appeal, over the next several weeks and months.
“Novant Health is one of the 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,” it continued. “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.”
People took to the Internet with appraisals regarding the Jury verdict. They insisted that merit should be the sole basis for all appointments. Moreover, they stated that discrimination based on caste, creed, color, and gender should be abolished. The Judiciary was praised for being impartial in its rulings. Some people were also concerned whether the verdict decision would be upheld in the case of an appeal.