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Teacher Sues Catholic School for Discrimination, Wrongful Termination over IVF

May 2, 2012

Our Costa Mesa-based labor and employment attorney Vincent Howard has been following a recent discrimination and wrongful termination lawsuit filed by a former teacher, who claims that she was fired from her position at a Catholic school in Indiana for trying to achieve pregnancy through in-vitro fertilization (IVF).

In the employment lawsuit, Emily Herx accuses St. Vincent de Paul School and the Diocese of Fort Wayne and South Bend of discrimination and for wrongfully terminating her employment last year due to her use of IVF--after eight years as a language arts teacher where she reportedly received excellent performance reviews.

Herx claims that she discussed her IVF treatments with her employers only after she used sick days for the treatment, and wasn't informed that IVF was an issue with her employment until a later date. When her employment was terminated, Herx claims she was told that by using IVF, which mixes an egg and sperm outside the body and transfers the embryo into the womb, she had violated the doctrines of the church--which frowns upon fertility treatments such as IVF.

According to Vincent Howard, this case sparks the ongoing debate over the separation of church and state in employment issues. In January, the Supreme Court ruled that religious employees are not permitted to file lawsuits against employers for discrimination in the workplace--after a former religion teacher in Michigan claimed she was fired for pursuing a discrimination claim over a disability. The Supreme Court stated that religious groups can dismiss their employees without interference from the government--and because the teacher was considered a "ministerial employee," she was exempt from anti-discrimination laws. However, the definition of who is or isn't a "ministerial employee" still remains unclear.

Last month, a U.S. District Judge in Ohio allowed a similar case to move forward, after a teacher filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against two elementary schools and the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, for violating state and federal anti-discrimination laws--for terminating her employment because she used artificial insemination to get pregnant.

The archdiocese stated in this case that Christa Dias was fired because artificial insemination violates the doctrine of the church, and the employment contract that requires all employees to comply with the Roman Catholic Church's teachings and philosophy.

Dias, who is not Catholic, claims she did not know artificial insemination violated Catholic doctrine. The judge ruled that that Diaz, who taught computer classes at the schools, had no apparent ministerial duties within the schools or in teaching the Catholic doctrine.

In the Indiana IVF discrimination case, Herx's attorney also claims that Herx is not a religion teacher, and was not required in her position to have any religious training. She was also not instructed about the Catholic doctrine that she violated.

In response to Herz's discrimination and wrongful termination lawsuit, the Catholic diocese reportedly stated that even teachers who are not Catholic are required by their employment contracts to follow the Catholic tenets and serve as moral exemplars in education settings.

Herx alleges that the diocese violated the Civil Rights Act on 1964 for discrimination based on gender, along with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for disability discrimination based on her infertility. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reportedly upheld her complaint that was filed in January.

In cities throughout Orange County, California and Southern California, contact Howard Law's managing attorney Vincent Howard today, for a free consultation about your disability rights in California.

Teacher says Catholic school fired her over IVF, Associated Press/WRIC, April 25, 2012

Fired Ohio teacher: Catholic schools discriminated, Associated Press, WSBT, April 30, 2012

Related Web Resources:

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, (EEOC)

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, (EEOC)

Facts About the Americans with Disabilities Act

California Fair Employment and Housing Commission (FEHC)

California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, Fair Employment and Housing Act

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