A Black chief of diversity had a job rescinded after highlighting racial bias in the company, NBC News reports.
Joseph B. Hill, who had accepted a position as vice president, chief equity, diversity, and inclusion officer at Memorial Hermann Health System in Houston, received an email from the institution saying that they changed their minds.
“We regret to inform you that we are rescinding the offer of employment dated July 21, 2021. …,” the email read. “We appreciate your interest in the position and wish you much success going forward.”
“It was a shock, to say the least,” Hill said. “I was floored.”
Two weeks later, Mark Oberti, Hill’s lawyer, received word on the phone that the reasons Memorial Hermann rescinded its offer was because Hill “was not a good fit.”
The process that Hill went through to procure employment with the company included over a dozen interviews in six weeks before he was offered the job. Additionally, Oberti was also informed by the company’s attorney that they were uneasy with Hill raising questions about hiring staff to build his team, that he requested a larger stipend for moving expenses, that he charged a luxury rental car to the company, and that he was overall “too sensitive about race issues.”
“The reasons they listed were just as shocking as rescinding the offer,” Hill argued.
According to Hill, Memorial Hermann’s accusations were “false and nonsensical,” but also because “they didn’t even contact me to discuss their so-called issues.”
The executives of Memorial Hermann Health Systems issued a statement addressing the matter.
“We continue to make great strides in enhancing equity, diversity, and inclusion within our system, but we know there is always more that can be done—which is why we are recruiting for a Chief EDI Officer,” the statement read.
Chris Metzler, former associate dean for human resources and diversity studies at Georgetown University, who created DEI certification programs at Cornell University and Georgetown, described many organizations’ attempts at diversifying as “disingenuous.”
“Many organizations are not interested in real change,” Metzler said. “They are looking at diversity as a numbers game. Many executives ask me privately, ‘How many Black people do I have to have?’”
“So, what they essentially want to do is bring in people who look different from them, but not necessarily people who think different from them,” he added. “ They want them to look different but just say, ‘Yeah, OK,’ to issues that need to be addressed.”
As for the company saying that Hill was too sensitive about race issues, Metzler said, “When your incoming chief diversity officer tells you that these are issues and your response is that he’s ‘too sensitive to racial issues’ … how low can you go? His job is to come in and point out those issues.”
With more than 30 years in DEI, Kevin Clayton has served as the vice president of diversity, inclusion, and community engagement for the Cleveland Cavaliers. He notes that after the murder of George Floyd, many organizations finally acknowledged the need to “look inside their houses.”
“But companies started plucking individuals from other jobs—marketing or sales or operations—and because they were a person of color, it was like, ‘Hey, you’re the D&I officer,’” Clayton said. “So they put people in these positions with no experience in DEI and call them diversity officers. And they give them no resources. And it’s almost like, ‘OK. We have one. Let’s check that box.”
After losing the opportunity at Memorial Hermann, Hill is currently exploring what his legal options are.
“Because this is bigger than me,” he 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.”
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