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SCOTUS nominee Gorsuch said women 'manipulate' maternity leave

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 3/20/2017 NICOLE HENSLEY
Supreme Court Justice nominee Neil Gorsuch arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, March 20, 2017, for his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. © Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo Supreme Court Justice nominee Neil Gorsuch arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, March 20, 2017, for his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch told law students that "many" female job seekers abuse maternity leave and must disclose plans to become pregnant, a former student has alleged.

The federal judge told a University of Colorado Law School class last year that companies should "ask females about their family and pregnancy plans to protect the company," according to a letter former student Jennifer Sisk wrote to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.

Sisk said Gorsuch, a visiting professor at Boulder, posed a hypothetical scenario in a Legal Ethics and Professionalism class in April that debated if a married job candidate with student debt should disclose to a potential employer that she wants to start a family.

"He asked the class to raise their hands if they knew of a female who had used a company to get maternity benefits and then left right after having a baby," Sisk wrote.

When only a fraction of the classroom acknowledged such a tactic, Gorsuch scoffed.

"C'mon guys," Gorsuch allegedly replied, adding that more students should have raised their hands.

Sisk claims that Gorsuch said “‘many’ women use their companies for maternity benefits and then leave the company after the baby is born.

He then "tied this back to his original comment that companies need to ask these questions in order to protect themselves against the female employees," Sisk added.

NPR reports that a spokesman for the Trump administration, Ron Bonjean, said Gorsuch had positive reviews among students at Boulder.

The statement did not deny the accusations.

Gorsuch’s remarks tread the line on what the Civil Rights Act prohibits.

Employers can not refuse to hire based on pregnancy or sex but the Title VII protections does not stop employers from asking the job candidate if she plans on becoming pregnant.

However, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission noted in 2007 that by asking the question, the interview can be used as evidence that an employer “unlawfully used sex or pregnancy as a factor in the selection decision.”

The U.S. does not guarantee maternity leave for female workers but after the November election, Trump pledged he would pass six weeks of paid-maternity leave for new mothers. His daughter, Ivanka, championed women’s right during her Republican National Convention speech in July.  

Sisk said she began collecting evidence from the lecture, and writing her letter to the judiciary committee, as soon as President Trump nominated Gorsuch in late January in hopes it would make a difference in his confirmation.

“It concerns me that a man who is being considered for our highest court holds views that discounts the worth of working females,” she said, ending her testimony.

The National Women’s Law Center published Sisk’s letter late Sunday, along with a second letter submitted anonymously. The allegations detailed in Sisk’s two-page testimony was addressed to Senators Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

Spokespersons for the senators did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Sisk added that a peer challenged Gorsuch's claim that an employer could ask about family planning but he told the class "that was wrong."

President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch told a class of law students that "many" women use companies to abuse maternity benefits. - Mario Tama/Getty Images © Provided by New York Daily News President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch told a class of law students that "many" women use companies to abuse maternity benefits. - Mario Tama/Getty Images

"Judge Gorsuch continued to steer the conversation back to the problems women pose for companies and the protections that companies need from women," Sisk wrote.

Sisk said she reported his comments to the Boulder administration the following week.

The university's senior assistant dean for students, Whiting Dimock Leary, told Sisk that Judge Gorsuch would be informed of the complaints after grades were completed.

“They told me they were going to approach him after grades were released that semester so there was no tie to their concerns and my grade in the class,” Sisk told the Daily News.

She graduated in May and is unaware of any repercussions.

The second letter shared by the law center states that about 40 to 50 students witnessed Gorsuch’s “strongly gendered” remarks in the classroom.

“He told our class that female lawyers get divorced at twice the rate of male lawyers,” the student wrote, later affirming Sisk’s allegations. “He also said that many female lawyers become pregnant, and questioned whether they should do so on their law firms’ dime.” 

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