Written by Don Byrd
A hotel dishwasher and room cleaner who is a member of a Catholic missionary group in Miami was awarded back pay and other damages in her lawsuit against Park Hotels & Resort (formerly Hilton Worldwide) for firing her in retaliation over her refusal to work on Sundays. Marie Jean Pierre’s employer had agreed for six years to honor her request, she claims, but beginning in 2015 things changed.
Sometime in 2015, the kitchen manager at the Conrad Miami, “demanded” Pierre work Sundays, the lawsuit states and for a short time allowed her to swap shifts with other coworkers to have the day off.
On March 31, 2016, Pierre says she was fired for alleged misconduct, negligence and “unexcused absences,” according to the lawsuit.
The federal jury awarded $36,000 in lost wages and benefits, $500,000 in emotional pain and anguish, and a whopping $21 million in punitive damages (though, as the NBCNews report indicates, statutory caps on damages will not allow such a large punitive award so it will be greatly reduced.)
Park Hotels intends to appeal and claims they were not aware that Pierre’s request was due to her religious beliefs. But clearly the jury did not agree.
This post has been updated with additional information.