A former hotel dishwasher has been awarded $21.5 million in damages after a jury found that her previous employer violated her religious rights.
Marie Jean Pierre, 60, sued the Park Hotels & Resorts, accusing the group of violating her civil rights by firing her for being unable to work on Sundays, the Miami Herald reported Wednesday.
Pierre, who had worked as a dishwasher at the Conrad Miami Hotel, had requested from the beginning of her employment that she have Sundays off to participate in Christian missionary work to help the poor, according to NBC News.
"I love God,” she told the local NBC affiliate. “No work on Sunday, because Sunday I honor God."
Pierre claimed in her lawsuit against Park Hotels & Resorts, formerly Hilton Worldwide, that her manager accommodated her scheduling requests from 2009 to 2015, but abruptly stopped and “demanded” that she work on Sundays.
She claimed in her lawsuit that she was fired in 2016 for “unexcused absences,” as well as alleged misconduct and negligence, according to NBC News, citing the lawsuit.
A jury in the U.S. District Court in Miami awarded Pierre the damages on Tuesday, according to NBC News.
The jury also found that Pierre is owed $35,000 in back pay and an additional $500,000 for “emotional pain and mental anguish.
A cap on punitive damages means that Pierre will likely receive at least $500,000, her attorney said.
A spokeswoman for Park Hotels & Resorts told NBC News that the company was “disappointed” in the verdict and intends to appeal.
"During Ms. Pierre's ten years with the hotel, multiple concessions were made to accommodate her personal and religious commitments," she said. "We intend to appeal, and demonstrate that the Conrad Miami was and remains a welcoming place for all guests and employees.”