A devout Christian dishwasher and mother of six who was fired by the Conrad Hotel in Miami, Florida, for refusing to work on Sundays was awarded $21 million in punitive damages by a federal jury after she sued for the violation of her religious rights. “I love God. I can’t work on Sunday because on Sunday, I honor God,” Haitian immigrant Marie Jean Pierre, 60, said. The jury found that the Conrad Hotel retaliated against Pierre when they fired her for being unable to work on Sundays even though they were aware of her involvement with the Soldiers of Christ Church that prevented her from working on Sundays, the Miami Herald reported.
Pierre worked at the hotel from 2006 to 2016 but it wasn’t until 2015 that her boss decided she would have to work on Sundays. Her co-workers traded shifts with Pierre to accommodate her religious observance but her boss demanded that she show up for her assigned shifts, and when she refused she was fired. The hotel alleged she was dismissed for misconduct, negligence and “unexcused absences.” Pierre responded by suing the Conrad, which is part of the Hilton Chain, in May 2017. Pierre’s lawyer, Marc Brumer, said that the hotel argued in court that it was unaware Pierre was a missionary, and never knew why she always wanted Sundays off.
Pierre alleged that in 2009, the hotel had scheduled her to work on Sundays and she informed them that if they did she would have to resign. To persuade her not to leave, the hotel accommodated her request until 2015. After hearing the case, a federal jury in Miami ordered Conrad Hotel to pay Pierre $36,000 for lost wages, $500,000 for emotional anguish, and $21 million in punitive damages. Although there is a cap on punitive damage awards in federal court, Brumer told NBC that he expects Pierre will receive at least $500,000. A spokeswoman for Hilton said that the group was “very disappointed by the jury’s verdict and intended to appeal.”
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