Black Diversity Officer Loses New Job Before He Can Start, Firm Claims It Wasn’t Because He Was Too Sensitive About Race Issues

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Joseph B. Hill was tapped for a new position as vice president, chief equity, diversity and inclusion officer at Memorial Hermann Health System in Houston, but just days before he was set to go in he received an email stating that his employer had reneged on their offer.

In a message obtained by NBC News, the note from Memorial Herman human resources vice president Lori Knowles read, “We regret to inform you that we are rescinding the offer of employment dated July 21, 2021. … We appreciate your interest in the position and wish you much success going forward.”

The 20-year diversity executive claims that when his lawyer Mark Oberti reached out to the hospital he was told that the facility had taken back their offer because Hill “was not a good fit” despite being interviewed more than dozen times almost two months before being given the opportunity.

Black diversity officer Joseph B. Hill was fired before starting new position, employer claims it wasn’t because he was too sensitive about race issues. (Photo: LinkedIn screenshot)

Black diversity officer Joseph B. Hill was fired before starting new position, employer claims it wasn’t because he was too sensitive about race issues. (Photo: LinkedIn screenshot)

Elsewhere they said that they were not OK with Hill’s request to hire staff to support him and a larger relocation budget, something Hill said isn’t uncommon. They also claimed he had charged a luxury rental car to the company and that he was “too sensitive about race issues.” The man called the reasons “false and nonsensical” and said “they didn’t even contact me to discuss their so-called issues.”

Hill said the real estate agent the company hired to assist him, a white man, shared “unconscious racial biases,” like pointing out a Black-owned clothing store, saying remarks like, “One of those stores over there is owned by a rapper; I don’t know those guys.”

After the agent assumed Hill’s Porsche SUV was a rental — it was personally owned — Hill shared the incident with Memorial Hermann’s human resources vice president. “I felt obligated to do so because he was representing the company I, ostensibly, was working for,” Hill explained. “It was the epitome of the job I was hired to do.”

Knowles wrote back stating that she was “sorry that the experience … wasn’t what we strive to provide during the onboarding experience.” Then a short while later, sent out another email informing Hill that he longer had the job.

In a statement to the outlet, executives at Memorial Hermann said in part: “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.” A lawyer for the hospital also said that “no one acting on behalf of Memorial Hermann ever criticized Mr. Hill for being ‘too sensitive about race issues.’”

Hill is now contemplating taking legal action, telling reporters, “Because this is bigger than me.” He added, “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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