FORT WAYNE, Ind. — A federal judge has cut by more than two-thirds the damages awarded to an Indiana teacher who was fired by a Roman Catholic diocese for trying to get pregnant through in vitro fertilization.
Last week’s decision by U.S. District Judge Robert L. Miller Jr. dropped Emily Herx’s $1.9 million judgment in her civil rights lawsuit to just under $544,000.
A federal jury in Fort Wayne found last month that diocese officials discriminated against Herx, who had taught at a diocese school, when they declined to renew her contract in 2011 because she had undergone IVF.
The diocese said the church teaches that IVF is gravely evil and never justifiable. In vitro fertilization involves mixing eggs and sperm in a laboratory dish and transferring the resulting embryo into the womb.
Herx’s attorneys argued that 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.
Diocese attorneys argued after the trial that the award should be capped at $300,000 and that medical care compensation should be held at roughly $35,000.
Herx’s attorneys agreed compensatory damages should not top $300,000, but argued that the $125,000 for medical care was not subject to the limits of the cap.
In Monday’s ruling, Miller agreed with both sides. He reduced the compensatory damage award to $299,999 and left the punitive damage award at $1, to bring that total to $300,000.
He increased the award for lost wages and benefits to $118,803, and added $22,853 in out-of-pocket health care costs.