$21 Million Awarded to Employee Because Hotel Fired Her For Not Working On Sundays

Marie Jean Pierre was awarded $21 million in punitive damages by a federal jury against the Conrad Miami hotel property — at which she worked as a dishwasher for greater than ten years — because she was fired by her boss for refusing to work on Sundays due to religious reasons.

$21 Million Awarded to Employee Because Hotel Fired Her For Not Working On Sundays

When she was hired in 2006, she had informed her employer that she could not work on Sundays because of her religious beliefs; but George Colon — who was the manager of the kitchen of the hotel property in 2015 — assigned her to work on Sundays anyway.

Pierre — who is 60 years old and a devout Christian missionary who was born in Haiti — managed to trade shifts with co-workers for several weeks so that she may attend Bethel Baptist Church in Miami on Sundays; but when her boss ultimately demanded that she show up for work, she refused. He subsequently terminated her employment at the hotel property.

“Pierre filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which issued her a ‘right to sue’ notice. She sued the Conrad, managed by HEI Hotels & Resorts and part of the Hilton collection, in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in May 2017”, according to this article written by Taylor Dolven for the Miami Herald. “‘Defendant retaliated against Plaintiff by, among other things, creating a hostile work environment for Plaintiff, reprimanding Plaintiff for her religious beliefs, and terminating Plaintiff,‘ Pierre’s complaint read.”

Her attorney originally asked for $50 million — but a federal jury in Miami ordered the hotel property on Monday, January 14, 2019 to pay Pierre $36,000.00 for lost wages; $500,000.00 for emotional pain and mental anguish; and $21 million in punitive damages. There is a cap on punitive damage awards in federal court, so Pierre cannot receive the entire $21 million — but her attorney reportedly expects that she will receive at least $500,000.00.

Hilton claimed in an official statement that multiple concessions were made to accommodate the personal and religious commitments of Marie Jean Pierre during her ten years with the Conrad Miami hotel property. Management at the hotel property reportedly intends to appeal that decision.

Summary

I normally no longer report on stories like this — but although I firmly believe that people are entitled to not have management discriminate against their religious beliefs, I found the judgement of $21 million to be rather excessive. Hot coffee from McDonald’s, anyone?!?

Then again — speaking in general and not necessarily specifically to this case — if an occupation has a requirement which an employee cannot fulfill, then perhaps that person should simply find employment elsewhere.

$36,000.00 for lost wages and $500,000.00 for emotional pain and mental anguish should have more than sufficed in sending a message to management of that hotel property, in my opinion.

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.


 

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6 thoughts on “$21 Million Awarded to Employee Because Hotel Fired Her For Not Working On Sundays”

  1. derek says:

    Unclear what is happening here. The worker got people to trade shifts with to some extent but she was a no show other times. A hotel has to be open 7 days a week or it loses money.

    If I were on a jury and it looked like there was going to be such a large award, knowing that punitive damages in this case is capped, I would see if the other jury members would average the figures from all members. Then I would submit an answer for $12 Trillion. If there are 6 juror, the punitive damages would then be $2 trillion, which would capture national attention!

    Woman awarded $2 trillion in lawsuit.

  2. Gene says:

    @ Brian — $21 million is ridiculous. She will never see that money.

  3. Rene says:

    If they hired her knowing she said she couldn’t work Sundays. It is their fault. I managed restaurants and made schedules. I could not schedule people for shifts they said up front, they couldn’t work. Picture this. You are a college student.beach semester you give me your school schedule, should I schedule during your class even though you said you have to work around them? Or this is your second job. You are a school teacher, should I schedule you during the hours you should be teaching? If you tell an employer up front that you can’t work certain days and times but they hire you, it isn’t ok for them to try to then schedule you those days. Period. Stupid amount of money rewarded but she did have a case.

  4. Ben says:

    Most people don’t realize that punitive damages aren’t meant to reward the plaintiff, it’s to punish the defendant. Hence the name. Confusing that is why “tort reform” has gotten out of hand. It allows companies to do unethical things knowing that there is a cap if they get caught.

  5. Ryan says:

    It’s fair. I’ve hired hundreds of people , if they tell me a time they cannot work due to religious reasons , that my decision before making the hiring decision whether the busienss can support their schedule. If the busienss needs change , that’s one thing but in this case it appears from the outside that the manager was harassing her. She was finding people to work for her so there were people to cover her shift, he demanded SHE work even though others could have. Absolutly sounds like he was atogonizing and descrininating.

  6. Michael Sagnard says:

    In 06 the manager was ok with her off on sundays.When the new manager came in and took over he did not like it and tried to force her to work sundays.

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