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MoMA PS1 Retracted Job Offer After Finding Out Curator Had Baby; Now She’s Filing a #MeToo-Inspired Lawsuit

Nikki Columbus claims that the museum rescinded the offer to be their curator of performance on discovering she was a new mother

MoMA PS1 and New York skyline, 2005. Courtesy: Flickr, Creative Commons; photograph: Timothy Vogel

MoMA PS1 and New York skyline, 2005. Courtesy: Flickr, Creative Commons; photograph: Timothy Vogel

MoMA PS1 and New York skyline, 2005. Courtesy: Flickr, Creative Commons; photograph: Timothy Vogel

Curator and former Parkett editor Nikki Columbus is claiming that MoMA PS1 retracted a job offer – to be their curator of performance – once they discovered that she had recently given birth. Now Columbus has filed a lawsuit with the New York City Commission on Human Rights, saying that the New York museum’s decision was ‘in violation of the city’s laws on caregivers, pregnancy and women’s rights.’

Columbus sought legal advice from nonprofit A Better Balance. She says she was inspired to take action by the #MeToo Movement. ‘I thought, if I’m afraid to speak up, who will speak up?’ she told the New York Times. ‘I don’t want this to happen to other women.’

In a report published by the Times, Columbus says that the initial job offer to direct the museum’s performance programme was made by MoMA PS1 in August 2017. During months of preceding interviews, Columbus says she was visibly pregnant, and was involved in face-to-face meetings with chief curator Peter Eleey and director Klaus Biesenbach up to a week before the birth at the end of July. She did not mention her pregnancy in the interviews.

Columbus was offered the job on 12 August, with a September start date. After Columbus began negotiating the timetabling and salary for the new role, she told Eleey that she had recently had a child. Eleey was apparently shocked by the news, and asked Columbus why she had not informed the museum earlier.

A few days on, the job offer was pulled, citing Columbus’s previous correspondence regarding her schedule and salary as a rejection. When Columbus replied to say that she wanted the job, with the original salary and part-time transition for September as Eleey had originally proposed, the museum said the offer ‘was no longer active.’

The museum did not issue a comment on the case, but did say in a statement: ‘MoMA PS1 is committed to a work environment in which all applicants and employees are treated with respect and dignity.’

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