A Christian who worked as a hotel dishwasher for the last 10 years won $21.5 million in a legal battle against her employer, the Conrad Miami hotel, who fired her for not showing up for six Sunday shifts to attend church.
Marie Jean Pierre said her employer was first made aware that she could not work on Sundays when she was hired. However, seven years after she began her job, her schedule changed, reported NBC’s Miami.
According to the Miami Herald, the hotel’s kitchen manager, George Colon, began scheduling her on Sundays in 2015. Although she was able switch shifts with co-workers, Colon eventually demanded she work the Sunday shift herself.
When she refused to work Sunday, she was fired in March 2016.
“I love God,” she told NBC 6 Miami. “No work on Sunday, because Sunday I honor God.”
Pierre then found an attorney who argued that her firing was a violation of her civil rights and religious beliefs. She filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accusing the Hilton-owned hotel of “creating a hostile work environment.”
She then filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in May 2017.
“They accommodated her for seven years, and they easily could have accommodated her, but instead of doing that, they set her up for absenteeism and threw her out,” her attorney, Marc Brumer, told NBC 6. “She’s a soldier of Christ. She was doing this for all the other workers who are being discriminated against.”
The Florida jury awarded Pierre $21 million in damages, plus $35,000 in back wages and $500,000 for emotional pain and mental anguish. While the $21 million is a historic win, limits placed on punitive damages won in federal court means she will probably only receive around $500,000.
“This was not about money,” Bruner told NBC 6. “This was about sending a message to other corporations whether big or small. Whatever size you are, if you’re going to take the blood and sweat of your workers, you better accommodate them or let them at least believe in their religious beliefs. Not a preference but a belief.”
Hilton sees things a little different and plans to file an appeal.
“We were very disappointed by the jury’s verdict, and don’t believe that it is supported by the facts of this case or the law,” a statement from the hotel chain reads. “During Ms. Pierre’s 10 years with the hotel, multiple concessions were made to accommodate her personal and religious commitments. We intend to appeal, and demonstrate that the Conrad Miami was and remains a welcoming place for all guests and employees.”
(Photo: NBC 6 Miami)