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In vitro fertilization discrimination case move toward trial

A teacher at a Catholic school claims she was fired from her job because she underwent in vitro fertilization. She has filed suit against the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend for wrongful termination. Readers in Missouri may be interested in the issue because it's being tried in federal court, and the outcome could decide the constitutional balance between religious and reproductive rights.

In vitro fertilization is a process where sperm and eggs are mixed in a lab dish, and the resulting embryos are moved to the mother's womb. The Catholic Church bars members from this practice. The dismissed teacher filed her lawsuit in April of 2012, contending that her firing was disability discrimination based on her infertility and gender discrimination.

Attorneys for the Diocese asked the court to dismiss the case because federal law bars religious workers from filing suit against their employers for discrimination. They further contend that teachers who work for the Diocese are contractually obligated to follow Catholic tenets. Any review by a court of church teachings intrudes on the right of the church to make religiously based decisions. The court, however, rejected the request for dismissal, so the way is clear for the case to go to trial. Currently, some motions to seal records have been granted. The attorney for the dismissed teacher didn't oppose the motions since they cover both sides during the pre-trial period. However, the attorney for the dismissed teacher did note that the case is based on the issues the Diocese wants to keep confidential.

Discrimination in the work place is sometimes difficult to prove, so if an individual feels that it has occurred over gender, disability, race or sexual orientation, he or she may want to allow an employment law attorney to review the case. It may be possible to negotiate a settlement that allows the individual to get his or her job back or receive a settlement for damages.

Source: The Kansas City Star, "Records sealed over Ind. church in vitro lawsuit ", Charles Wilson, June 03, 2013

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