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7th Circuit declines collateral-order review in infertility lawsuit

December 2, 2014

A Fort Wayne woman’s discrimination lawsuit against the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend will continue despite the Catholic Church’s attempt to get the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals to intervene before trial and dismiss the complaint on religious freedom grounds.

Emily Herx sued the diocese when her employer, St Vincent de Paul School, did not renew her teacher’s contract. The school said she violated the moral teachings of the church by undergoing in vitro fertilization treatments.

Herx filed a complaint, arguing the diocese and the school violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act by discriminating against her on the basis of sex and disability.

The diocese moved for summary judgment on both claims and the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana granted the motion with respect to the ADA claim but not on the Title VII claim.

Although the church argued as a religious organization it was exempt from Title VII, the District Court disagreed. Instead the District Court found that religious-employer exemptions apply only to claims alleging religious discrimination and do not bar Title VII claims against religious organizations alleging discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex or national origin.
 
The diocese then appealed to the 7th Circuit under the collateral-order doctrine. It argued a collateral-order review was necessary to avert a serious encroachment on its First Amendment religious-liberty interests.

The 7th Circuit ruled there was no merit for a collateral-order review in Emily Herx v. Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Inc. and St. Vincent de Paul School, 14-3057.

“We do not question the importance of the interests the Diocese has asserted,” Judge Diane Sykes wrote. “But those interests will not be irreparably harmed by enforcement of the final-judgment rule. … Because the district court’s decision is not effectively unreviewable on an appeal from a final judgment, the collateral-order doctrine does not apply.”

 

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