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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Ind. Courts - "Teacher Fired After Receiving Fertility Treatments" [Updated]

Updating this ILB entry from yesterday afternoon, which includes the complaint, ABC News/Good Morning America has a feature story by Russell Goldman, complete with video, on the lawsuit. The story begins:

A Catholic school teacher in Indiana is suing a diocese there, claiming that she was unlawfully terminated after school officials learned she was undergoing fertility treatments to become pregnant.

In a federal lawsuit filed in a Fort Wayne, Ind., teacher Emily Herx claimed that she was fired and told by a senior church official that her attempt to become pregnant through in-vitro fertilization made her a "grave, immoral sinner."

Later in the story:
[Teacher Emily Herx] filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and won, opening the door to a civil lawsuit, according to her lawyer Kathleen DeLaney [of Indianapolis].

Herx was "terminated only for trying to enlarge her family with husband," DeLaney said, calling her firing a "traumatic event" for the teacher.

The Supreme Court recently ruled that the religious institutions are exempt from discrimination laws in hiring clergymen. A Catholic church for instance cannot be sued for failing to hire women priests because it conflicts with fundamental Church doctrine.

DeLaney told ABC News, that she does not believe the court's decision applies to Herx.

"The facts in this case are distinguishable. There is no ministerial exception. Ms. Herx didn't have religious training, did not teach religious doctrine," she said.

The recent SCOTUS ruling on "ministerial exception" is Hosanna-Tabor Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, decided Jan. 11, 2012. See this case analysis from that date by Lyle Denniston of SCOTUSblog, which begins:
Closing the courthouse door much of the way, but not completely, to workplace bias lawsuits by church employees who act as ministers to their denominations, the Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously gave its blessing — for the first time — to a “ministerial exception” to federal, state, and local laws against virtually all forms of discrimination on the job. The Court’s ruling, which only Justice Clarence Thomas said did not go far enough, did not order courts to throw out all such lawsuits as beyond their jurisdiction, but it left them with only a narrow inquiry before the likely order of dismissal would come down. As soon as the denomination makes its point that it counts an employee as a “minister,” within its internal definition, that is probably the end of the case. And the employee could be anyone from the congregational leader, on down to any worker considered to be advancing the religious mission.
The Herx complaint, in its first few pages, addresses this issue directly.

[Updated at 10:07 AM] Rebecca S. Green of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette has a long story this morning on the lawsuit.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on April 25, 2012 09:42 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts