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Jury awards $10 million to White hospital executive who claimed discrimination

A White man has been awarded $10 million by a federal jury that sided with his claim he was fired as part of a diversity effort by employer Novant Health.

David Duvall, Novant's senior vice president of marketing and communications, was terminated without any notice on July 30, 2018, by the Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based not-for-profit health system, according to his 2019 complaint.  

Duvall was ordered "off the premises immediately, five days before his fifth work anniversary," despite receiving strong yearly reviews from Novant, the document claimed. Duval was allegedly fired "without warning or cause as part of an intentional campaign to promote diversity in its management ranks; a campaign [Novant] has boasted about publicly." 

Duvall was replaced by two women, one White and one Black, to increase gender and racial diversity among the medical system's executives, his lawsuit alleged. Five other White men were dismissed by Novant and replaced by either a racial minority and/or a woman over a period of 12 to 18 months, the suit claimed. 

The jury hearing the case on Tuesday ruled that Duvall had shown his race and gender to be motivating factors behind his termination. 

Duvall's lawsuit was "not a statement against diversity and inclusion programs," but only about the need to run such programs lawfully, his attorney, S. Luke Largess, told CBS MoneyWatch in an email. 

"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," Largess said. "That is plainly unlawful and very harmful and that is what the jury denounced here." 

Novant Health disputed the allegations and said it intends to fight the jury's finding. 

"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. We will pursue all legal options, including appeal, over the next several weeks and months," a spokesperson for Novant said in an emailed statement.  

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