When a hotel dishwasher at a Miami hotel was fired after missing work during Sunday for religious activity, she received $21.5 million by the jury verdict.
“I love God,” Marie Jean Pierre told NBC 6 Miami. “No work on Sunday, because Sunday I honor God.”
As a devout Christian missionary, the Haitian-born woman had strong convictions about keeping her religious commandments, especially attending church every Sunday. Although her job didn’t allow her to take off each weekend for the early service, Pierre would routinely trade shifts with her co-workers, making sure to cover her Sunday morning work while also keeping her faith. Sadly, this came to an end when the hotel hired a new manager.
Her new boss quickly took issue with the Christian woman getting off work each week. The faithful, long-time dishwasher was soon fired for refusing to work on Sundays. Unfortunately for her ex-employer, the reserved little lady wasn’t going to take it lying down.
Watch it here: NBC Miami 6/video
“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.”
Pierre argued that her firing was a violation of her civil rights and religious beliefs, so she took legal action against the Conrad Miami hotel, the Miami Herald reports, filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accusing the Hilton-owned hotel of “creating a hostile work environment.”
America recognizes more individual freedoms than any other country in the history of the world. As long as these rights don’t infringe upon another’s rights, these freedoms are to be recognized and respected, lest the abuser face prosecution. Unfortunately, Pierre’s employer had to learn this lesson the hard way.
Due to caps on punitive damages in federal court, Pierre is unlikely to see the $21 million in damages, plus $35,000 in back wages and $500,000 for the emotional pain that she scored in court. Instead, she will only receive around $500,000.
“This was not about money,” Bruner said. “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, meanwhile, plans to appeal the decision.
“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.”