A jury in Florida awarded a woman $21.5 million last week, agreeing her former employer — the Conrad Hotel in Miami — unjustly fired her after she declined to work Sundays, citing her Christian faith.
Marie Jean Pierre worked as a dishwasher at the Hilton-owned hotel from 2006 until 2016, when her employment was terminated, according to The Miami Herald.
For years, the hotel’s managers made accommodations for Pierre, who is very involved in the Soldiers of Christ Church. But in 2015, her boss, kitchen manager George Colon, assigned her to work Sundays anyway. Pierre was able to trade shifts with her coworkers for several weeks, but Colon ultimately demanded she show up to do the work.
She refused, and Colon fired her.
“I love God,” Pierre told WTVJ-TV. “No work on Sunday, because Sunday I honor God.”
Pierre then filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which soon thereafter issued her a “right to sue” notice. She moved forward with the lawsuit against the hotel, which is now part of the Hilton Collection.
The ex-dishwasher’s attorney, Marc Brumer, told WTVJ the hotel had accommodated her for several years and could have continued to do so, but instead “set her up for absenteeism and threw her out.”
“She’s a soldier of Christ,” he added. “She was doing this for all the other workers who are being discriminated against.”
It should be noted that, at the time of the alleged incident, the hotel was owned by Park Hotels & Resorts, Inc.
The former hotel dishwasher argued in her complaint that Colon had created “a hostile work environment” and was “reprimanding” her for her religious beliefs.
Pierre won the lawsuit last week. The federal jury in Miami ordered Park Hotels & Resorts, Inc., to pay Pierre $36,000 in lost wages, $500,000 for emotional anguish and $21 million in punitive damages.
In a statement following Pierre’s success, Brumer said the lawsuit was “not about money.”
“This was about sending a message to other corporations whether big or small,” he said. “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.”