Is diversity an ethical reason to back out of hiring someone who was promised the position?

I was told in writing and verbally by two separate managers that they can no longer justify hiring me internally because I do not improve the racial/sexual diversification of their team even though I'm the only candidate.

There was a previous written agreement (email) on the salary I would receive, but after an unforeseen hiring freeze, my race and sex are evidently compromising my advancement opportunities in the company.

The hiring manager's previous written promise was encouragement for me to volunteer my time, proving I am competent for their needs. Coincidentally they have backed out of the agreement now that I've successfully completed the demo project that they are very grateful for (essentially spec work).

I've never been told my ethnicity and sex are stopping me from advancing. Nor have I been tricked into doing volunteer work. How should I professionally correct this ethics dilemma while ideally not burning bridges?

Update: The details of the hiring freeze are rather complicated. The open position that was meant to go to me ended up being used for an entirely different, senior position after a high ranking lead quit the company. So, this was unforeseen and they can't justify opening another position unless I am a diverse candidate since headcount must otherwise be kept to a minimum. In other words, rather than back fill the attrition, they just re-purposed my requisition since justifying new requisitions is evidently nearly impossible due to headcount reduction initiatives unless there's a diversity candidate.

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    Depends what you want to do. Do you want to sue? Take the letter to a lawyer & gain an easy win. Do you just feel bewildered but want to carry on your life? Forget about it. Do you want to work for the company? Forget about it - they sound like an unprofessional company anyway. – user27483 May 9 '15 at 18:11
  • When the diversity policy of your company prevents to give someone a job for diversity reasons even when they are the only applicant, that policy seems quite broken. But workplace stackexchange does not have the power to change your companies regulations. – Philipp May 9 '15 at 18:32
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    There's a sudden hiring freeze, but it's diversity policy that's preventing you from being hired? I'm confused by this. – Esoteric Screen Name May 9 '15 at 18:37
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    Positive discrimination laws have been upheld many times by judges. That said, the issue here is that you did work for your company and they have not paid you, it seems more like an excuse for scamming you that anything else. Go find a lawyer. – SJuan76 May 9 '15 at 19:20
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    Ok, after your update I would say that the race issue (contrarily to your post title) is not fundamental; what you have is that you had a deal and got caught in the hiring freeze (the fact that there is an exception to that freeze based in race does not seem relevant; there could be also an exception for hiring janitors). There are plenty of similar questions in the site; check them. Also check questions about if you should paid (and how to ask for it) for the production code you gave to them. – SJuan76 May 10 '15 at 11:39

Depending on where you are this isn't an ethical issue, but it may be a legal issue. Ethics has to do with actions that are not covered by laws.

Even in a US state with at-will employment they can't fire you for discriminatory reasons. Once you signed and returned the offer letter, if they want to fire you or cancel the offer they needed to make sure there was no discrimination involved.

I am surprised that they would put in writing that:

"they can no longer justify hiring me internally because I do not improve the racial/sexual diversification of their team"

Lawyers generally advise clients to say only the minimum amount. They don't want them to put damaging information in writing.

You need legal advice regarding the chances of winning the case and what the remedy would be.

The chances that you would want a long term career with that company are slim.

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    I disagree with "Ethics has todo with actions that are not covered by laws". Leaking info that shows that, say, the CIA killed Martin Luther King Jr. may be illegal, but still ethical. – SJuan76 May 9 '15 at 19:16
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    ethics and legality aside - it was stupid to leave a paper trail – NobodySpecial May 9 '15 at 19:42
  • Good response, though I must say some ethics may intersect law and vice versia. They are both huge spheres of understanding that can be defined in overlapping ways. Though I'm not trying to argue that what is legal is necessarily ethical. – Mark Rogers May 10 '15 at 0:22
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    Anyone who was stupid enough to say something so compromising to a candidate they were turning away deserves to be sued as a learning experience. – Carson63000 May 11 '15 at 1:09
  • @SJuan76 I knew it. Those CIA bastards. – Juan Carlos Oropeza Mar 24 '17 at 19:41

Look at it from their perspective, they are required by law to hire minorities for diversity.

If they hired you (By your comments, I presume you are of the same sex/race as your potential team members), the other candidates would sue them for race/sex/ethnic discrimination.

They are pretty much in a lose-lose situation. The only thing they did wrong was telling you that was the reason. Now you could use that as a basis to sue them but it's likely you'll lose.

If you must blame someone, blame the law.

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    Except that there were no other candidates – Ángel May 10 '15 at 19:04
  • @Ángel Try reading his update, it's exactly what I said. – Jack May 10 '15 at 22:00

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