In efforts to “diversify” the workroom, some companies are hiding behind the gaze of inclusion in hopes of finding a token to enhance their agendas.
Joseph B. Hill, a Black Chief Diversity Officer with over 20 years of experience, accepted a new position to serve at Memorial Hermann Health System in the city of Houston as the Vice President, Chief Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Officer.
To prepare for a relocation and help Hill find the right home, a real estate agent contracted by Memorial Hermann was hired. Hill noted red flags from the agent as he recalled “unconscious racial bias” being exhibited from the white realtor such as bringing light to a Black-owned clothing store and commenting, “One of those stores over there is owned by a rapper; I don’t know those guys.” Hill also recalled the agent presenting a public golf course as “someplace where you would play,” to wittingly imply he was not welcomed at a private club.
Hill, uncomfortable due to the microaggressions, presented a detailed account of the interaction to Lori Knowles, Memorial Hermann’s Human Resources Vice President in an email stating: “The experience crystalizes why the Chief, Equity Diversion and Inclusion Officer role is important for Memorial Hermann. Today, many companies are fraught with microaggressions that are unintentional or intentional that alienate employees. Memorial Hermann has an opportunity to truly leverage equity, diversity and inclusion to engage workforce, enhance the brand and increase positive patient outcomes.”
In response, Hill received an email from Knowles that said: “sorry that the experience . . . wasn’t what we strive to provide during the onboarding experience.”
Hill would later receive an alarming e-mail reflecting a change of heart from the company resulting in the loss of his job offer.
“We regret to inform you that we are rescinding the offer of employment dated July 21, 2021. …,” an email from Knowles said. “We appreciate your interest in the position and wish you much success going forward.”
The email left Hill in “shock” and “floored,” NBC News reports.
Unknowingly, Hill would not be prepared for the email stating the company rescinded his offer that followed upon his return to Atlanta. Hill’s story serves as a harsh reminder of the internal discrepancies, which can occur when companies are focused on their image and likeness externally rather than implementing real change through honest hiring practices.
Memorial Hermann has since responded in light of Hill’s incident.
“Sometimes, during the hiring or onboarding process, circumstances can change that may lead to an offer of employment being rescinded. Out of respect for all individuals involved, it is Memorial Hermann’s practice not to discuss personnel matters publicly,” Memorial Hermann said in a statement. “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.”
According to NBC News, Hill was “dumbfounded further” when his lawyer, Mark Oberti was told two weeks later why Memorial Hermann rescinded his offer. One reason included him not being a “good fit” and according to the outlet, Oberti was also told “it was uncomfortable with Hill inquiring about hiring staff to build his team; that Hill wanted a larger relocation budget; that he rented and charged a luxury car to the company.” He also told that Hill was “too sensitive about race issues.”