A jury in Miami decided Tuesday a hotel dishwasher should be awarded $21.5 million in damages after her workplace continuously scheduled her to work Sundays, infringing on her religious rights.
The jury also determined Marie Jean Pierre, a former dishwasher at the Conrad Miami, should receive $35,000 in back wages plus $500,000 for “emotional pain and mental anguish,” according to NBC News.
A punitive damages cap, however, means the Christian missionary won’t see that kind of money from this case – a factor the jury didn’t know about.
Pierre filed the lawsuit in 2017 citing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 against her former workplace, previously managed by Hilton. Pierre alleges in the lawsuit she told the Conrad Miami when she started the job that due to her religion, she couldn’t work on Sundays. She told the hotel she would need to resign in 2009 after they scheduled her to work on a Sunday, and the hotel subsequently met her requests to avoid working on Sundays until 2015 so she wouldn’t leave, per the lawsuit.
That year, the kitchen manager “demanded” she work that day but let her switch shifts with people for “a short time,” NBC reports. Eventually she was forced to work Sundays. In 2016, Pierre claims in the lawsuit she was fired due to “unexcused absences,” negligence and alleged misconduct. She worked at the hotel for more than 10 years, according to NBC Miami.
“I asked for $50 million, knowing that I was capped at $300,000,” Pierre’s lawyer Marc Brumer told NBC News. “I didn’t do this for money. I did this to right the wrongs.”
“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 Hilton spokesperson told USA TODAY in a statement. “During Ms. Pierre’s ten 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.”