A devout Christian dishwasher and mother of six who was fired by the Conrad Hotel in Miami, Florida, for refusing to work on Sundays was awarded $21 million in punitive damages by a federal jury Monday after she sued for the violation of her religious rights.
"I love God. No, I can't [work on] Sunday because Sunday, I honor God," Haitian immigrant Marie Jean Pierre, 60, said in an interview with NBC 6 South Florida on Wednesday.
The jury found that the Conrad Hotel retaliated against Pierre when they fired her for being unable to work on Sundays even though they were aware of her involvement with the Soldiers of Christ Church that prevented her from working on Sundays, the Miami Herald reported.
Pierre worked at the hotel from 2006 to 2016 but it wasn't until 2015 that her boss, kitchen manager George Colon, decided she would have to work on Sundays anyway. Her co-workers traded shifts with Pierre to accommodate her religious observance but Colon demanded that she show up for her assigned shifts, and when she refused Pierre was fired on March 31, 2016.
The hotel alleged she was dismissed for misconduct, negligence and "unexcused absences," according to the lawsuit.
Pierre responded by suing the Conrad, managed by HEI Hotels & Resorts, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in May 2017. The Conrad Hotel is also part of the Hilton collection.
"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 lawsuit said.
Pierre's lawyer, Marc Brumer, told NBC that the hotel argued in court that it was unaware Pierre was a missionary, and never knew why she always wanted Sundays off.
Pierre alleged that in 2009, the hotel had scheduled her to work on Sundays and she informed them that if they did she would have to resign. To persuade her not to leave, however, the hotel accommodated her request until 2015.