Employers loathe working moms—an evergreen truth.
According the New York Times, MoMA PS1 offered a woman the curator of performance position, only to rescind it when she asked, not for maternity leave, but to work from home when starting the role while she recovered from having a baby.
Nikki Columbus had been in talks with the Queens museum over the spring and summer of 2017, and though clearly expecting, she chose not to mention her pregnancy at the advice of friends who had also job hunted while pregnant. (Pregnant women are not legally obligated to disclose their pregnancy, and it’s illegal for an employer to discriminate against them.) Columbus’ decision was further influenced by the ample disdain for the previous working mom in the role, with an interviewer saying that she had been “much less present” after having a baby.
Columbus was formally offered the position on August 12, just after the birth of her child, and she enthusiastically accepted, exchanging friendly texts and emails with the museum’s director and chief curator. The chief curator, Peter Eleey, told her via an August 17 email “we can be flexible on the transition into the role here,” proposing she work part-time at first as she transitioned out of her previous role editing an art magazine. She continued to have face-to-face meetings with her future employers, right up until eight days prior to her delivery. But in late August, when Columbus called to finalize details and to negotiate working from home during her postpartum recovery (not an unreasonable request considering you just produced a human), the friendliness vanished and the offer was revoked. Columbus soon received an email from the museum’s COO, Jose A. Ortiz, saying that “we are sorry that we are unable to tailor the position on the terms you have proposed.” She clarified that she still wanted to job, but was told the offer was “no longer active.”
Columbus has filed a complaint against the museum with the New York City Commission on Human Rights, accusing the museum of discrimination. Such prejudice further hampers women’s advancement in the workplace, adding to the mounting list of obstacles, inequities, and discrimination against everything from their breast-pumping schedules to their marital status.
The museum declined to discuss the case with the Times, but did release a statement, saying it does not tolerate discrimination or harassment. Columbus, meanwhile, doesn’t have a full-time job.