Jury Awards $21 Million to Hotel Dishwasher Forced to Work Sundays

Marco Green
January 18, 2019

A USA jury has decided a hotel dishwasher should be awarded $US21.5 million ($NZ31.7m) in damages after her workplace continuously scheduled her to work Sundays, infringing on her religious rights.

Attorneys for the hotel said they planned to appeal, according to NBC 6 South Florida.

"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 complaint read.

Pierre was sacked in March 2016 for alleged misconduct, negligence and unexcused absences, she said in the lawsuit. "No work on Sunday, because Sunday I honor God." data-reactid="33" type="text" "I love God", she told NBC 6 Miami.

She said the hotel had known about her religious conflict and that she couldn't be scheduled for any shifts Sunday because her faith forbade her from working that day of the week, the lawsuit claimed.

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.

She then filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in May 2017. She said she traded shifts with coworkers for several weeks until her boss said she had to come in, the Miami Herald reports.

The 60-year-old claimed the hotel chain, formally called Hilton Worldwide, continued to schedule her for Sundays despite knowing she was a missionary. The remaining $21 million is for punitive damages.

Brumer said while there's a $300,000 cap on punitive damage awards in federal court, he expects Pierre to receive between $300,000 to $500,000. She says she told her employer she would have to resign, but in an effort to persuade her not to quit, they accommodated her request until 2015.

Hilton said it was "disappointed" by the jury's verdict and said it did not believe it was supported by the facts of the case or by the law. During Ms. Pierre's ten years with the hotel, multiple concessions were made to accommodate her personal & religious commitments'. The company will appeal the court's decision in the very near future, the New York Post reports.

But Brumer said his client's case 'was not about money, ' anyway. "My argument to the jury was, 'We have to send a message to corporations".

'If you're gonna take the blood and sweat of your workers, you better accommodate them, or let them at least believe in their religious beliefs, not a preference, but a belief'.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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