A federal judge in Indiana has been asked to grant summary judgment in favor of a diocese that is being sued by a former employee. The former employee had been working for the northern Indiana diocese as a schoolteacher until she was fired for trying to get pregnant through in vitro fertilization. In order to grant the diocese’s motion for summary judgment, the judge would need to determine that the schoolteacher had not raised any genuine issues that would need to be adjudicated at trial.
The lawsuit was initially filed against the diocese in 2012 on the grounds of violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Attorneys for the teacher say that the church discriminated against the woman based on the way in which she tried to get pregnant, a violation of rights that are established and protected by the Civil Rights Act. The woman’s attorneys argue that employers do not have the right to act as doctors and ban certain medical procedures.
Officials at the diocese contend that the federal anti-discrimination laws do not apply to them as a religious organization. Since Catholicism forbids in vitro fertilization, and because the teacher was considered to be a lay “minister” in the church, the diocese says that the federal acts do not apply to their organization. The attorneys for the diocese argue that a judge could ascertain without a trial that the teacher’s sex, pregnancy or disability were not factors in her being fired.
If the Indiana judge does not grant the summary judgment motion, the parties could be headed towards mediation or trial. In some cases, employers and employees may be able to reach a settlement without going to court. If an employee feels that his or her rights have been violated by an employer, an attorney may help determine the appropriate course of action to take.
Source: WLFI, “Diocese asks judge to dismiss teacher’s lawsuit”, June 16, 2014