A Christian woman who was fired from her job for skipping Sunday shifts to attend church was awarded $21 million by a jury.
Marie Jean Pierre, a 60-year-old woman who worked as a dishwasher at a Hilton-managed hotel, claims she was fired after more than a decade because of her religious beliefs. The jury agreed, handing her an outsized reward.
Pierre, a devout Christian missionary born in Haiti, said she was fired by her boss at the hotel after she missed six Sundays from work to attend Bethel Baptist Church in Miami.
Pierre argued that she had informed her employer when she was hired that she could not work Sundays because of her religious beliefs and should not have been scheduled to work on the Sundays she missed.
“I love God. No work on Sunday, because Sunday I honor God,” Pierre said Wednesday in an interview with NBC 6 Miami.
Her lawsuit argued that her former employer, which was managed by Hilton at the time, had violated the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which protects workers from discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex or national origin.
A jury in federal court ruled in her favor on Monday, granting her $21 million in damages, plus $35,000 in back wages and $500,000 for emotional pain and mental anguish.
While religious discrimination is obviously illegal, the question as to how much accommodation companies must provide is a legitimate one. If I simply say it’s against my religion to go to work at all, does the company have to continue to pay me? That’s an extreme case, but the company says they did accommodate her requests for seven years and made “multiple concessions” for her. Her side’s argument is that her bosses purposely scheduled her on Sundays with the intention of eventually firing her — and the jury believed that,.
The company that oversees the Conrad Miami Hotel says it will appeal the jury’s decision.
It should be noted that there’s a limit to how much anyone can receive in punitive damages in a federal court. So while that $21 million ruling is excessive, she won’t get it, regardless of the appeal. Her attorney said she would likely get at least $500,000.