News Register for our weekly news digest here.

Thousands Sign Petition Urging MoMA PS1 to Change “Discriminatory Policies” Against Working Mothers

After curator Nikki Columbus filed a lawsuit against MoMA PS1 for allegedly revoking a job offer when leadership learned she recently had a child, more than 19,000 people have signed an online petition calling on the New York museum to adopt policies that support working mothers.

“When companies and organizations discriminate against working mothers it excludes capable, talented candidates from the work pool and disadvantages them, their families and their future,” reads the petition, which was launched on Care2. “It is unacceptable that an institution dedicated to bringing beauty to the world would behave in such an ugly manner.”

Women have no legal obligation to disclose their pregnancy during a job interview, and Columbus, a former executive editor of Parkett magazine, chose not to inform MoMA PS1 chief curator Peter Eleey about her pregnancy when interviewing for the position, concerned that it might create obstacles with the museum. According to Columbus’s legal representation, the New York–based firm Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP, the museum’s actions violate the city’s laws on caregivers, pregnancy, and women’s rights. 

When offered the job, Columbus began negotiating pay and the position’s start date, with an arrangement for her to work part-time and from home during the first month of employment as performance curator, according to her lawsuit against Eleey and MoMA PS1 director Klaus Biesenbach. Columbus claims this arrangement only became infeasible for the museum after leadership found out she had a baby. “This is discrimination, plain and simple,” reads the petition, which is nearing its goal of 20,000 signatures.

Responding to the controversy, MoMA PS1 released a statement saying it does not stand for discrimination or harassment. An excerpt of the letter reads: “MoMA PS1 is committed to a work environment in which all applicants and employees are treated with respect and dignity.”