Hotel dishwasher awarded $21m after suing boss for making her work Sundays

She was also awarded $500,000 for emotional pain and mental anguish and $35,000 in back wages

Chelsea Ritschel
New York
Thursday 17 January 2019 17:04 GMT
Marie Jean Pierre said she had told her employer she could not work on Sundays.
Marie Jean Pierre said she had told her employer she could not work on Sundays.

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A hotel dishwasher has been awarded $21.5m (£16.5m) by a jury which found her former employer violated her religious rights by having her work on Sundays before she was fired.

Marie Jean Pierre had worked for almost six years at the Conrad Miami hotel, when a kitchen manager “demanded” Pierre she work on Sundays in 2015.

A member of the Soldiers of Christ Church, a Catholic missionary group that helps the poor, the 60-year-old felt unable to do so because of her religious beliefs, her lawsuit claimed.

Park Hotels & Resorts – formerly known as Hilton Worldwide told the US District Court in Miami that they were not informed about this and did not know why she requested Sundays off. They had nonetheless accomodated her request.

The mother of six was initially allowed to switch shifts with coworkers to avoid working on Sundays and sought a letter from her pastor to explain the situation, he lawsuit claimed.

However, she was fired in 2016 Pierre for alleged misconduct, negligence, and “unexcused absences.”

She launched her lawsuit the following year or violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Under the law, employment discrimination on the basis of race, colour, religion, sex or national origin is banned.

The jury agreed with Ms Pierre's claim, but although they awarded millions, her lawyer Marc Brumer said the jury was not “aware of the cap” and the actual amount his client will receive is more likely to be in the range of $500,000 (£385,000).

The woman worked at the Conrad Miami until 2016
The woman worked at the Conrad Miami until 2016

“They thought that they punished Hilton hotel with $21m,” he said, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

In addition to the damages awarded, the jury also found Pierre was due $35,000 (£27,000) in back wages and $500,000 (£385,000) for emotional pain and mental anguish.

However, according to the lawsuit,

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A Hilton spokesperson told The Independent in a statement: “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. 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.”

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