Diocese wants ex-teacher’s jury award cut

Emily Herx
File - Emily Herx walks to the Federal Building in downtown Fort Wayne on the morning of December 17, 2014.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) — A Roman Catholic diocese that was ordered to pay nearly $2 million in compensation to a teacher who was fired by church officials for trying to get pregnant through in vitro fertilization, has asked for those damages to be reduced.

A motion filed Monday by the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend seeks to cut Emily Herx’s federal jury award to about $300,000, arguing that such damages are partly capped by the size of the diocese’s workforce.

Diocese attorneys contend state law caps pain-and-suffering damages at $300,000 for employers with more than 500 employees, and that the diocese has more than 870 teachers alone, The Journal Gazette reported (http://bit.ly/1AhQ7jW ).

The diocese also argues that the damages awarded to Herx regarding lost wages and benefits also fit within that cap, as does some of her medical care that arose from the stress of her firing.

A federal jury in Fort Wayne found on Dec. 19 that diocese officials discriminated against Herx, who had taught at a diocese school, when it declined to renew her contract in 2011 because she had undergone in vitro fertilization in hopes of having a second child.

In vitro fertilization involves mixing egg and sperm in a laboratory dish and transferring the resulting embryo into the womb.

The diocese argued the medical procedure is gravely evil and never justifiable, according to church teachings.

Herx, of Hoagland, said male teachers were not fired after they were accused of violating the church’s moral teachings when they were ejected from a strip club for groping an employee.

Jurors awarded Herx $1.75 million for emotional and physical damages, $125,000 for medical expenses, $75,000 for lost wages and $1 in punitive damages.

Herx’s legal team on Monday filed its own motion in response, saying federal law caps damages for physical, mental and emotional suffering, but that she deserves more than $560,000 in damages, including $299,999 for physical, emotional and mental suffering.

No court date has been set for a judge to rule on the motions.

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Information from: The Journal Gazette, http://www.journalgazette.net

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