*Marie Jean Pierre, a devout Christian who refused to work on Sundays, was fired from her job as a hotel dishwasher in 2016 for not showing up for six Sunday shifts. So she sued her employer and recently scored a legal victory when a jury awarded her $21 million.
“I love God,” she told NBC 6 Miami. “No work on Sunday, because Sunday I honor God.”
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.”
“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.”
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 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.”