A federal jury found that the Conrad Hotel in Brickell retaliated against a religious dishwasher by firing her for being unable to work on Sundays, and awarded her $21.5 million.
Marie Jean Pierre worked as a dishwasher from 2006 to 2016 at the Conrad, which has since changed owners. The hotel knew about her involvement in the Soldiers of Christ Church that prevented her from working Sundays. But in 2015, her boss, kitchen manager George Colon, assigned her to work Sundays anyway.
Co-workers traded shifts with Pierre for several weeks, but Colon ultimately demanded she show up. When she refused, he fired her.
Pierre filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which issued her a “right to sue” notice. She sued the Conrad, part of the Hilton Collection, in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in May 2017. At the time of the alleged incident, the hotel was owned by Park Hotels & Resorts Inc., a real estate investment trust.
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“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.
On Monday, a federal jury in Miami ordered Park Hotels & Resorts Inc. to pay Pierre $36,000 for lost wages, $500,000 for emotional anguish, and $21 million in punitive damages. State and federal laws limit the amount Pierre can actually pocket to $100,000-$300,000, and the company is likely to appeal. Still, Pierre’s lawyer, Martin Saenz, said she’s very happy with the result.
“In her mind, God prevailed,” he said. “We asked that the jury make an example out of this case.”
Lawyers for the real estate investment firm did not return a request for comment.
This story has been updated to reflect the hotel’s ownership at the time of the alleged incident, and to include a comment from Pierre’s lawyer, Martin Saenz.