Company's 'pattern of eliminating white males' supports reverse bias award, judges say

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'A U.S. appeals court panel on Thursday sounded likely to mostly uphold a $4 million award for a white male former healthcare executive who claimed he was fired so the company could further its diversity goals.

A three-judge 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel in Richmond, Virginia heard arguments in an appeal by hospital operator Novant Health Inc, which claims former senior vice president David Duvall's lack of leadership skills, and not his race or sex, led to his termination.

The appeal comes as corporate diversity initiatives are facing increased scrutiny and legal challenges, largely from conservative groups who say they amount to unlawful bias against white and male workers.

Two 4th Circuit judges at Thursday's argument signaled that Novant was unlikely to convince them to overturn the jury's finding that the company had engaged in discrimination.

Circuit Judges A. Marvin Quattlebaum and G. Steven Agee cited evidence that six other white executives were fired around the same time as Duvall, who was replaced by a Black woman, that Duvall's Black supervisor received lower performance scores than Duvall but kept his job, and that Novant could not produce any documentation to back up its stated reasons for firing him.

"The jury's entitled to look at these things and come to a reasonable conclusion ... that there's a pattern of eliminating white males in order to accommodate another group," Quattlebaum said to Novant's lawyer, Stephen Cox.

Duvall was fired in 2018 after Novant adopted a plan to make its workforce more reflective of the communities it serves. He sued in 2019, accusing the North Carolina-based of race and sex discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.'

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