Marie Jean Pierre, a 60-year-old dishwasher at the Conrad Miami Hotel (later bought by Hilton), was awarded a massive settlement of over $21 million after being fired for refusing to work on Sundays due to her religious beliefs. Pierre had faithfully covered her Sunday shifts by trading shifts with her co-workers for seven years until a new manager took issue with her time off. She filed a lawsuit against Hilton for religious discrimination and the jury ruled in her favor.
The jury awarded Pierre $21 million in damages, along with $35,000 in back wages and $500,000 for emotional pain and mental anguish. It was revealed during the trial that Pierre had been fired despite adequately finding someone to cover her shifts on Sundays in order to honor her religious commandments. Her attorney stated that she had been accommodated for seven years but was ultimately set up for absenteeism and dismissed unjustly.
While the federal court has a punitive damages cap of $300,000, Pierre is expected to receive at least $500,000 from the settlement. However, she expressed her intention to donate the money to orphans in Haiti, as she is a devout Christian missionary and wishes to use her settlement to help those less fortunate.
Hilton denied any discrimination and claimed that they had made accommodations for Pierre's religious commitments. They argued that they had managed their employees within the requirements of federal law regarding reasonable considerations for religious practices. Despite Hilton's stance, the jury found in favor of Pierre.
Pierre's case sheds light on the relationship between corporate management and employee rights, particularly when it comes to religious beliefs. While the amount of the settlement may be debated, Pierre's story emphasizes the importance of protecting individuals' rights in the workplace. Regardless of the final sum received, Pierre intends to fulfill her promise of using the funds to assist those in need, reflecting her dedication to her faith.