I applied for a postdoc at a lab in the US as I really liked the work of that lab. I had the initial interview with the professor and then with the lab members. All went well and the professor welcomed me to join the lab.
When the administrative part started, things got very strange quickly:
The prof put me in touch with his lab manager, and then, casually mentioned that the university has a covid-related hiring freeze...but that it might be OK since I have a scholarship/bring my own money (which I do). It was however only then that I learned about the hiring freeze.
The lab manager (quite unfriendly) told me that given that I have my own funding I will be only considered a "visiting postdoc" and would not receive benefits. When I asked about more details, she told me to "google".
I then got invited to a zoom meeting to clarify some other points about a document I had handed to admin. First of all the mail suggested that it was me, prof and one admin person. Against my expectations 6 or 7 people joined and it felt like a cross-examination. In addition, the meeting turned out to not be about said document at all (they even said that that document was fine??). First, they told me that my scholarship can't be below their minimal level. Then they told me that I would not be allowed to collaborate with another college during this time. Then they asked all kinds of further questions like: If you are really an engineer, why was the department you were at before the department of chemistry? When I said that yes I was an engineer, the admin person said "OK I will have to google to check if this chemistry department really hires engineers" - i.e. she made it clear that they don't believe me....?
I asked them about the terms and conditions for "visiting postdocs", they said there are none (???). That is, I have no clue about what rights, benefits etc. I would have when joining the lab.
The prof seemed to side with admin, though he told me to call him after this cross-examination-style meeting. There he said that it is strange for him as well that admin does not allow for collabs (and he would not mind if I would collab but we should keep it under wraps) and mentioned that he would make up for it if my salary should be below the minimum. But, although he had previously mentioned that he would make sure that I would not be just a "visiting postdoc", he now seemed to have changed his mind.
This entire process was so hostile, I still can't believe it. I invested a lot of energy trying to get this job, but then having to fully commit without being considered a full employe..? I feel like the prof was not fully transparent.. though I really like the work of his lab and it could be great for my career.
And by the way, the place I was before was Stanford, so I am not coming from some (supposedly) random university.
Is this usual behavior, and how could I deal with this most constructively?