“I’m very lucky. I’m privileged, I’m a middle-class white woman, I have a partner with a good job who’s able to support me if the worst happened….I thought, if I’m afraid to speak up, who will speak up?”
— “Curator Says MoMA PS1 Wanted Her, Until She Had a Baby,” The New York Times (July 9, 2018)
Last year, MoMA PS1, the contemporary art museum in Queens, NY, recruited Nikki Columbus for the position of associate curator of performance. The museum’s leaders pursued her for months and ultimately offered her the position, only to rescind the offer after learning that she had recently given birth. That’s when Nikki reached out to A Better Balance.
New York City has robust laws prohibiting the kind of discrimination that Nikki experienced. Employers like MoMA PS1 who have four or more employees cannot discriminate against employees or prospective employees based on pregnancy or caregiver status. Caregiver discrimination can include refusing to hire someone based on stereotypes about the availability of caregivers. In Nikki’s case, the museum’s chief curator stated that the person who previously held the associate curator position had been “much less present” after having a baby, revealing a bias against new mothers before learning of Nikki’s pregnancy.
Inspired by the #MeToo movement to speak out about her experience and seek justice, Nikki brought a complaint last week with the New York City Commission on Human Rights. Nikki’s story, featured in The New York Times this weekend, along with the paper’s other recent coverage, highlight how pregnancy and caregiver discrimination happen every day, in every industry, to people of every class and income level. We commend Nikki for speaking up and are honored to represent her as co-counsel along with Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Adaby attorneys Elizabeth Saylor and Ali Frick.
Knowing your rights is the first step to asserting your rights. A Better Balance has a variety of online resources to help you better understand your workplace rights around caring for yourself and for loved ones. If you believe you have experienced caregiver discrimination, please call our free and confidential legal helpline at (212) 430-5982 or at (615) 915-2417 if you are calling from the South.