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Court awards dishwasher $21.5m for being forced to work on Sundays

Unprecedented. Pierre (in the centre) persuaded the judges that her “sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance” conflicted with her employment requirement to work on Sundays. She was then awarded $21.5, an equivalent of about UGX80 billion. (MSN PHOTO)

NEW YORK – Court, this week, awarded $21.5 million (about UGX80 billion) to a former hotel dishwasher after she managed to convince a Miami jury that her employer made her work on Sundays.

Speaking to NBC 6 with her lawyer Marc Brumer, 60-year old Marie Jean Pierre, and a mother of six, said: “I love God,” continuing: “No work on Sunday because Sunday I honour God.”

According to New York Post, Pierre got fired three years ago from her job at the Conrad Miami hotel, which was managed by Hilton at the time, after missing multiple shifts on Sunday to attend Church service.

Pierre sues employer

Pierre sued, claiming the hotel had violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which bars race, religious and gender discrimination by employers.

A member of the Soldiers of Christ Church, a Catholic missionary group that helps the poor, Pierre felt unable to work on Sundays, the lawsuit claimed.

The hotel agreed to stop giving her the Sunday shifts for a lengthy period between 2009 and 2014. However, this ended in 2015 and they eventually began “demanding” that Pierre start working on Sundays again.

“They accommodated her for 7 years and they easily could have accommodated her [again], but instead of doing that, they set her up for absenteeism and threw her out,” explained Brumer.

Pierre persuaded the judges that her “sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance” conflicted with her employment requirement to work on Sundays.

The award

According to federal court documents, on Tuesday January 15, Pierre was awarded $536,000 in damages to compensate for lost wages, emotional pain and “mental anguish”. And $20 million in punitive damages.

Will she receive this? Most likely not! She will likely receive far, far less due to a state cap on punitive damages.

Out of the total of $21.5m the jury awarded Pierre, she will take home less than $500,000 because of the legal cap.

Speaking to NBC News on Wednesday, her lawyer said: “I asked for $50 million (about UGX186 billion), knowing that I was capped at $300,000 (about UGX1.1 billion),” adding: “I didn’t do this for money. I did this to right the wrongs.”

A Hilton spokesperson told The Independent: “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. During Ms Pierre’s 10 years with the hotel, multiple concessions were made to accommodate her personal and religious commitments. We intend to appeal…”

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