The punitive damages cap, however, is set at $300,000.
Marie Jean Pierre, a former dishwasher at the Conrad Miami Hotel, has been awarded the sum of $21.5 million after her hotel chain employer violated her religious rights by scheduling her to work Sunday shifts. The now 60-year-old worked in the hotel previously managed by Hilton for 10 years. The hotel terminated her employment in March 2016.
The amount of money has a caveat though: the presence of a punitive damages cap stops her from receiving any amount over $300,000. She alleged that Conrad Miami hotel, earlier known as Hilton Worldwide, violated the 1964 Civil Rights Act. This law bans discrimination of employment on the basis of race, national origin, religion, or sex. The jury found that she was due for $35,000 as back wages, and another $500,000 for creating mental anguish and emotional pain.
Pierre is a mother to six children and attends the Soldiers of Christ Church, a Catholic missionary group which assists the poor. In her lawsuit, Pierre claimed she informed her employer of her inability to work on Sundays on account of her religious beliefs. She claimed she could not work on Sundays due to her love of God. Marc Brumer, her lawyer, told the court Hilton gave the argument of being unaware of Pierre being a missionary and didn’t know why she never wanted to work on Sundays.
2 biggest risk areas for religious discrimination in hospitality: scheduling and uniforms. Managers must be trained to recognize a religious accom. request and follow the law. #conradmiami #discriminationhttps://t.co/K8wdOAWhpw
— Lexington Wolff (@LexingtonWolff) January 18, 2019
The hotel fired Pierre after she missed six Sunday shifts. The 60-year-old attended Bethel Baptist Church at that time. Her lawyer informed the court she was fired even though she had earlier informed her employer of her inability to work on Sundays.
According to her lawyer, the sum awarded by the jury was immaterial as the case was never about the money. He said the whole point about the case was to send a message to corporations, whether big or small, that if they take the “blood and sweat” of their employees, then they must accommodate their religious beliefs.
The Hilton Group, for its part, has plans to appeal against the case. In its corporate statement, they said during Pierre’s employment of 10 years with the hotel “multiple concessions” had been made accommodating her religious commitments.