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Former student: In class, Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch said women manipulate maternity leave

A University of Colorado Law School graduate wrote a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee alleging that during a class Judge Neil Gorsuch taught in 2016, he told his students that many women exploit their companies for maternity benefits and employers should ask women during the hiring phase about their plans for having children. Gorsuch is President Trump's nominee for an open Supreme Court seat.

Jennifer Sisk sent her letter on Friday to the committee's chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and ranking member Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and it was published Sunday on the websites of the National Employment Lawyers Association and the National Women's Law Center. In the letter, Sisk said that during the April 19, 2016, class, Gorsuch shared a hypothetical case about a married female law student with a large amount of debt applying for jobs at law firms. This hypothetical woman also wanted to have a family, and while the class was discussing the matter, Gorsuch interrupted "to ask students how many of us knew women who used their companies for maternity benefits, who used their companies in order to have a baby and then leave right away," Sisk wrote. Some students raised their hands, she added, and Gorsuch said, '"Come on guys. All of your hands should be up. Many women do this.'"

Federal law prohibits employers from making hiring decisions based on pregnancy status or family plans, but does not explicitly ban asking such questions. Sisk told NPR she wrote the letter "so that the proper questions could be asked during his confirmation hearings," which begin Monday. At the time, Sisk notified the law school deans, who said they would talk to Gorsuch when the semester was over; she did not follow up on the matter. Sisk said she was surprised Gorsuch held such views and felt comfortable enough to share them with the class, but never wanted him to get let go as a professor. "My interest is more with having someone talk to him and explain to him why he shouldn't be making these comments in class, why he needed to understand what the state of employment law was, and why it was problematic for him to express this view of employment law to a class full of students," she said.