You Made Me Ashamed to Work for Your Company

On May 14, 2021, I left my day job at a major health insurance company. This is the email I sent to the CEO.

William Shunn
5 min readMay 17, 2021


An obscenely large McMansion, faced with what appears to be rough fake stone, illuminated with all lights inside blazing yellow in the purple dusk. A wide swath of lawn extends from the circular drive to a sidewalk close to the camera.
Not, as far as I know, Mr. Poupon’s actual house (photo by Daniel Barnes on Unsplash)

Names in the email below have been changed.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Dear Mr. Poupon—

Today is my last day at HealthFire, which presents me the opportunity to say a few things that I did not feel free or empowered to say while still counting on a paycheck.

Let me first say that I have enjoyed my time at HealthFire. The people I’ve worked alongside have, by and large, been great folks who care passionately about what they do. People work here because they want to help other people. It’s inspiring to see.

This is why I many months ago lost patience with your weekly “Checking In” emails. There I was last year, stuck in my cramped, one-bedroom New York City apartment, fearful every time I had to leave to buy groceries, working long hours to help with our pandemic response, only to receive weekly updates about how pleasant it was at your vacation home and how great it was to be with family and friends in these hard times.

Sure, you talked about other issues, those timeless themes of vision and hard work and perseverance, but to me your main message was a constant reminder that I was trapped at home with a terrifying disease rampaging through my community while I, unlike you, lacked the resources to spirit my family away to anyplace safer. Every day I had to sit home as my partner, an essential worker and a woman of color, went out in that community and risked her life just to serve others and bring home a pitifully small paycheck for her troubles, while her white colleagues stayed home to shelter in place and get unemployment.

I’m a white male of a certain age who receives what is by most people’s standards a generous salary. If these emails landed so badly with me, I can’t help but wonder how they landed with my fellow associates farther down the income scale. I wonder especially how they landed with the associates and contractors who must actually enter people’s homes to do their jobs.

As a senior software developer for HealthFire’s in-home care division, I worked on the…



William Shunn

Writer, poet and puzzle maker. Hugo and Nebula Award finalist. Author of The Accidental Terrorist: Confessions of a Reluctant Missionary. He/him/Bill.