When Marie Jean Pierre began working at the Conrad Miami hotel as a dishwasher in 2006, she asked her supervisors not to schedule her on Sundays because of her religious beliefs.
Pierre, a 60-year-old mother of six, is a devout churchgoer, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports. But in 2009 the Conrad, then owned by Hilton Worldwide Holdings (HLT), started scheduling her for Sundays. When she reiterated she needed Sundays off or would need to leave, the hotel agreed, but in 2015 began scheduling her for Sunday shifts again. Pierre was then fired for alleged misconduct, negligence, and unexcused absences, according to a lawsuit.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires employers to reasonably accommodate employees’ religious practices. The jury decided the case in support Pierre on Tuesday with the U.S. District Court in Miami, setting damages to be paid by Park Hotels & Resorts, spun off by Hilton in January 2017, at $21.5 million.
Pierre is only likely to receive something in the range of $500,000, however, because punitive damages are capped in federal court, her lawyer Marc Brumer said.
Hilton issued a statement about the ruling: “We are very disappointed by the jury’s verdict, and don’t believe that it is supported by the facts of this case or the law. We intend to appeal, and demonstrate that the Conrad Miami was and remains a welcoming place for all guests and employees.”
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces the laws that prohibit discrimination, is one of the agencies affected by the government shutdown. Discrimination complaints must be filed within 180 or 300 days, but public filing systems are currently shut down — and the EEOC says the time limits will not be extended.