HILTON PLANS TO appeal a federal court ruling in Miami that awarded $21.5 million to a hotel dishwasher who claimed she was forced to work on Sundays against her religious beliefs. However, 60-year-old Marie Jean Pierre will only receive a fraction of that amount due to cap on punitive damages awarded by federal court.
Pierre worked as a dishwasher at the Conrad Miami, owned by former Hilton subsidiary Park Hotels & Resorts, starting in 2006, according to The South Florida Sun Sentinel. When she began her employment she told her managers she could not work on Sundays due to her religious beliefs. Pierre is a member of the Soldiers of Christ Church, a Catholic missionary group that helps the poor, according to the Sun Sentinel.
However, in 2009 the hotel began scheduling her on Sundays until she threatened to quit, at which point they accommodated her request again until 2015. That year her schedule was changed again to include Sundays, and she protested. In 2016 she was fired for alleged misconduct, negligence and “unexcused absences,” according to the lawsuit, but her Miami-based lawyer, Marc Brumer, said it was religious discrimination.
“You can’t discriminate when someone has a religious belief,” Brumer said, citing the federal law. “You have to accommodate them.”
But a Hilton spokesman said the hotel offered Pierre “multiple concessions” to accommodate her beliefs.
“We were very disappointed by the jury’s verdict, and don’t believe that it is supported by the facts of this case or the law,” the spokesman said. “We intend to appeal, and demonstrate that the Conrad Miami was and remains a welcoming place for all guests and employees.”
With the federal cap, Pierre could get up to $300,000 in punitive damages in addition to $500,000 for emotional distress and $35,000 in back wages, Brumer told the Sun Sentinel. From all that, Pierre could get about $500,000 after legal fees are factored in, Brumer estimated.
Last month a woman in Albany, New York sued Hilton and the owners of a Hampton Inn & Suites in Albany, New York, on the grounds that somebody filmed her in the shower when she stayed at the hotel in 2015 and has been blackmailing her with the video. Furthermore, the woman claims that, though she cannot identify her persecutor, he or she must be an employee or agent of the hotel with access to her personal information.