A dishwasher at a Miami hotel claimed in a lawsuit that her former employer violated her religious rights by scheduling her to work on Sundays. This week, a jury agreed and awarded Marie Jean Pierre $21 million in punitive damages, NBC reports. But, as WTVJ points out, she’ll end up with only a fraction of that, some $300,000, due to a cap on punitive damages in federal court. Pierre, who worked at the Conrad Miami for a decade, sued the hotel’s parent company, in 2017, saying it violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on color, religion, sex, or national origin. The 60-year-old mother of six is a member of Catholic missionary group Soldiers of Christ.
Pierre claimed that the hotel knew from the onset of her employment that she could not work Sundays, and that her employer accommodated her until 2015, when she began to be scheduled to work on Sundays. She said she traded shifts with coworkers for several weeks until her boss said she had to come in, the Miami Herald reports. When she didn’t, he fired her. Pierre’s lawyer tells NBC that the hotel argued in court that it didn’t know that she was a missionary and why she needed Sundays off. "During Ms. Pierre's ten years with the hotel, multiple concessions were made to accommodate her personal and religious commitments," a spokeswoman says, adding that the hotel will appeal. In addition to the punitive damages, Pierre was reportedly awarded $36,000 for lost wages and $500,000 for emotional suffering. (Read more lawsuit stories.)