With the stroke of a pen, a judge set the final amount of money awarded to a former Roman Catholic school teacher in a federal discrimination lawsuit.
On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Robert L. Miller reduced the total judgment given to Emily Herx from about $540,000 to $403,608. The $540,000 was less than half of what the jury awarded Herx when it decided in her favor in a discrimination lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.
Just before Christmas, a jury found that the diocese had discriminated against Herx when it elected not to renew her teaching contract after officials found out she underwent in vitro fertilization.
The practice is prohibited by the Roman Catholic Church as an intrinsic evil that no circumstances can justify.
Herx, then a language arts teacher at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School, had undergone the procedure twice before and had received emails from her principal that appeared to offer a level of support and encouragement.
But when she went to her superiors in early 2011 to ask about time off for a third round of treatments, the Rev. John Kuzmich told the principal not to renew Herx’s contract for the 2011-12 school year.
In the spring of 2012, Herx sued the diocese, contending she had been the victim of gender discrimination and that the diocese treated similarly situated male teachers differently than she had been treated.
She also argued that she was discriminated against because she tried to become pregnant again, albeit through a method of which her employer disapproved.
The diocese argued that it was protected from Herx’s federal claims of gender discrimination, having chosen not to renew her contract because of a violation of church teaching, not because of an attempt to get pregnant.
The jury originally awarded Herx $1.9 million: $1.75 million for physical, mental and emotional suffering; $125,000 in medical care; $75,000 in lost wages; and $1 in punitive damages.
Previously this year, Miller cut the total to $540,000, putting the damages for suffering under the statutory cap of $300,000.
In the months since, both sides have gone back and forth on the damages amount – arguing in documents over lost wages and medical expenses.
On July 7, Miller cut the amount of medical expenses in the judgment to about $35,000, asking Herx to accept that amount in lieu of having a new trial on the issue of her medical expenses, according to court documents.
Through her Indianapolis attorneys, Herx agreed on July 9, but she did not give up her right to appeal any judgment awarded to her, according to court documents.
On Thursday, Miller issued the new order, reducing the total amount for what appears to be the final time to $403,607.33 in compensatory damages and $1 in punitive damages, according to court documents.