Black Chief Diversity Officer ‘Too Sensitive About Race Issues’ Lost Job

In Summary

After reporting racial biases, a chief diversity officer had a job offer rescinded at a hospital system in Houston.  

Joseph B. Hill was set to embark on a new journey as the vice president, chief equity, diversity and inclusion officer at Memorial Hermann Health System in Houston.  

Four days later, Hill’s job offer was rescinded.  

“It was a shock, to say the least,” Hill said. “I was floored.”  

The health company stated several reasons why they rescinded Hill’s offer, but neither made any sense to the 20-year Black veteran in the field.  

Hill’s lawyer, Mark Oberti, said the company informed him that Hill “was not a good fit,” and that it was uncomfortable with Hill wanting to hire and build his team. Hill inquired about a larger relocation budget and even charged a luxury car to the company, according to what Oberti was told. 

Memorial Hermann Health System also stated Hill is too sensitive about race issues. 

Hill was perplexed, stating it took a dozen interviews over six weeks before he was offered the job. He also noted the company’s reasons were “false and nonsensical” and “they didn’t even contact me to discuss their so-called issues.” 

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While Hill was searching for a home in Houston, Hill said he was met with issues from a white real estate agent the company contracted. Hill said he endured “unconscious racial biases.”  

He said the agent pointed out a Black-owned clothing store, saying, “one of those stores over there is owned by a rapper; I don’t know those guys.”   

Another incident occurred when the agent pointed at a public golf course and said the course is “someplace where you would play” instead of a private club.  

The third racial incident happened when Hill arrived to search for a new home in a Porsche SUV. Hill said the agent stated, “that’s a nice rental car you have there,” instead of believing it was his vehicle.   

Hill shared the microaggression with Lori Knowles, the human resources vice president at Memorial Hermann.  

“I felt obligated to do so because he was representing the company I, ostensibly, was working for,” Hill said. “It was the epitome of the job I was hired to do.”  

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Knowles responded to Hill by apologizing and stating in an email that his experience is not what the company hoped for during the onboarding process. Hill said he is seeking legal action.  

“Because this is bigger than me,” Hill said. “This is about doing the right thing, and the right thing in this case also is hoping other companies take this position of DEI seriously to make substantive changes and not just as a spot to fill for appearances’ sake. That’s not helping the long-standing issues of lack of diversity or creating a safe, comfortable workspace for all employees.”  

The company released a statement on rescinding the offer:  

“Memorial Hermann remains committed to its EDI journey, including hiring a Chief EDI Officer. With this individual leading the charge, Memorial Hermann will continue to be the leading employer and healthcare provider of choice for all people and effect real change that will improve the health of our communities.” 

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