Hotel dishwasher awarded $21 million for working Sundays

BY MARCIA HEROUX POUNDS
SUN SENTINEL / TNS

MIAMI ‒ A jury has awarded a Miami hotel dishwasher $21.5 million, concluding that her employer failed to honor her religious beliefs by repeatedly scheduling her to work on Sundays, then ultimately firing her.

The jury also awarded $35,000 in back wages and $500,000 for emotional pain and mental anguish.

Civil rights violations

Marie Jean Pierre, a dishwasher at the Conrad Miami, sued Virginia-based Park Hotels & Resorts, formerly known as Hilton Worldwide, for violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in 2017. The jury found for Pierre and the award was filed on Tuesday with the U.S. District Court in Miami.

“You can’t discriminate when someone has a religious belief,” said Pierre’s Miamibased lawyer, Marc Brumer, citing the federal law. “You have to accommodate them.”

Pierre, a 60-year-old mother of six children, is a mem ber of the Soldiers of Christ Church, a Catholic missionary group that helps the poor.

Brumer said Hilton argued in court that it never knew Pierre was a missionary, or why she always wanted Sundays off.

Told her bosses

Pierre said she notified her employer from the beginning that she couldn’t work on Sundays due to her religious beliefs, according to the lawsuit. But in 2009, the hotel began scheduling her on Sundays. Pierre told her employer she would have to leave her job.

The hotel then accommodated her request until 2015. But then late that year, Pierre’s schedule was changed again to include Sundays, and she sought a letter from her pastor.

In 2016, Jean Pierre was fired for alleged misconduct, negligence and “unexcused absences,” according to the lawsuit.

Hilton

‘disappointed’ “We are 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 spokeswoman said. “We intend to appeal, and demonstrate that the Conrad Miami was and remains a welcoming place for all guests and employees.

Brumer said while there’s a $300,000 cap on punitive damage awards in federal court, he expects Pierre to receive between $300,000 to $500,000.

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