Complaint Alleges Discrimination by New York City Museum Based on Pregnancy, Caregiver Status, Other Factors

Workers in New York City are protected from discriminatory actions by their employers based on a wide range of factors. New York City discrimination attorneys can bring claims on behalf of clients in state or federal court, or with an administrative agency like the city’s Commission on Human Rights (NYCHR). A complaint filed with the NYCHR last year alleges that a museum in Queens rescinded a job offer when it learned that the complainant had recently given birth. The complainant in Columbus v. MoMA PS1, et al asserts claims under city law for gender, pregnancy, and caregiver discrimination.

The New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender and caregiver status, among other categories. N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-107(1)(a). The statute defines a “caregiver” as someone “who provides direct and ongoing care for a minor child or a care recipient.” Id. at § 8-102. The term “care recipient” has an extensive definition, but the relevant provision for the Columbus case involves caregiving responsibilities for a “minor child,” defined as a child under the age of eighteen.

Pregnancy is not expressly included in the NYCHRL’s list of protected categories. Neither is it included in the definition of sex discrimination, like in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(k). The NYCHRL does, however, require employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” to employees who are pregnant or have recently given birth, which will “allow the employee to perform the essential requisites of the job.” N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-107(22)(a).

The complainant in Columbus states that she “is well known in the art world in New York City.” Columbus, complaint at 3. She alleges that the respondent museum, located in Queens, recruited her for the position of performance curator in 2017. The complainant was pregnant when this process began in April 2017. She alleges that the chief curator complained to her that the previous performance curator “was ‘much less present’ after she had a baby.” Id. at 4. She states that she decided not to inform him of her pregnancy at that time because of this statement.

Over the next few months, the complainant states that she met with the chief curator, the director, and the chief operating operator (COO), all of whom are named individually as respondents, several times over the next few months. She claims that these discussions included an agreement with the curator that she “could start on a part-time basis and take time off during the week if she worked on the weekend.” Id. at 7.

The COO sent a formal offer of employment to the complainant in mid-August 2017, about two weeks after she gave birth. The complainant mentioned the birth in a conversation with the curator soon afterwards. She alleges that the curator “was taken aback,” and claimed never to have noticed that she was pregnant. Id. at 6-7. After several weeks without much communication from the museum, the complainant claims that the COO emailed her in September to rescind the job offer.

In the summer of 2018, the complainant filed her complaint with the NYCHR. She asserts three claims under the NYCHRL: caregiver and gender discrimination, and “refusing to reasonably accommodate her recovery from childbirth.” Id. at 12.

Phillips & Associates’ team of skilled and experienced employment attorneys represents employees and job applicants in New York City. Please contact us today at (212) 248-7431 or online to schedule a free and confidential consultation to discuss your case.

More Blog Posts:

Lawsuit Alleged Discrimination Based on Gender Stereotypes About Caregiving, New York Employment Attorney Blog, February 11, 2019

New Law Protects New York City Workers with Caregiver Responsibilities, New York Employment Attorney Blog, July 9, 2018

New York City Protects Against Caregiver Discrimination, New York Employment Attorney Blog, January 17, 2018

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