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Employer Rescinds Offer to Black DEI Officer for Being “Too Sensitive” About Race Issues

Memorial Hermann Health System in Houston hired Joseph B. Hill as vice-president, chief equity, diversity and inclusion officer. Hill had more than 20 years of experience working as a diversity executive. He went through dozens of interviews over a six-week period before receiving an offer from Memorial Hermann. Four days before he was scheduled to begin the position, he received an email from Memorial Hermann stating, “We regret to inform you that we are rescinding the offer of employment.” When his attorney called the company later, the company informed the lawyer that Hill was not a good fit. Memorial Hermann also told Hill’s attorney it was not comfortable with Hill’s inquiries about hiring staff for his team, his request for a larger relocation budget, his rental and charge of a luxury car to the company, and that he was overall “too sensitive about race issues.”

According to Hill, these alleged issues began when he started looking for a new home to relocate to in Houston. The white real estate agent hired by the company highlighted a Black-owned clothing store in the neighborhood and pointed out the public golf course as “someplace where [Hill] would play.” Hill understood that to mean he could not play at a private club. When Hill arrived in an expensive SUV for the home search, the agent commented, “That’s a nice rental car you have there.” Hill shared these race-based microaggressions with the vice president of human resources via email. Hill conveyed the conduct above “crystalizes” the importance of the chief diversity officer. He noted to the vice president that these microaggressions throughout many companies, whether intentional or unintentional, alienate employees.

The offer withdrawal came shortly. In press reports, Hill asserted the SUV was his car, not a rental, and he did not complain about the relocation budget. He says Memorial Hermann never reached out to discuss any of its concerns with him. Memorial Hermann stated to the media that circumstances changed, and it would not comment publicly. The company also stated it “remains committed to its EDI journey, including hiring a Chief EDI Officer.”