For ten years, Haitian born Marie Jean Pierre worked as a dishwasher at the Conrad Miami. Thanks to a very generous jury, Ms. Jean Pierre probably won’t be washing other people’s dishes any time soon.
According to NBC Miami, a former dishwasher at a Miami hotel, previously managed by Hilton, fired after missing work on Sundays for religious reasons, was awarded a $21 million jury verdict.
Sixty-year-old Marie Jean Pierre was a dishwasher at the Conrad Miami Hotel for more than a decade until she was fired in March 2016.
Pierre, a devout Christian missionary born in Haiti, said she was fired by her boss at the hotel after she missed six Sundays from work to attend Bethel Baptist Church in Miami.
Pierre argued that she had informed her employer when she was hired that she could not work Sundays because of her religious beliefs and should not have been scheduled to work on the Sundays she missed.
“I love God. No work on Sunday, because Sunday I honor God,” Pierre said Wednesday in an interview with NBC 6 Miami.
Her lawsuit argued that her former employer, which was managed by Hilton at the time, had violated the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which protects workers from discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex or national origin.
A jury in federal court ruled in her favor on Monday, granting her $21 million in damages, plus $35,000 in back wages and $500,000 for emotional pain and mental anguish.
“They accommodated her for seven years, and they easily could have accommodated her, but instead of doing that, they set her up for absenteeism and threw her out,” her attorney Marc Brumer said. “She’s a soldier of Christ. She was doing this for all the other workers who are being discriminated against.”
There is a cap on punitive damage awards in federal court, so Pierre can’t receive the entire $21 million. But her attorney said he expects she will receive at least $500,000.
The company said it was disappointed by the jury’s decision and that it intends to appeal.
Amazon recently came under fire for not allowing Somali-Muslim immigrants enough time during their work day to pray.
At the peak of their busiest season, Somali-Muslim Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN) joined her fellow Muslims in the Minneapolis area to protest what workers called unfair treatment, stating that management would not allow them to take enough breaks for Muslim prayers.
Khadra Ibrahin, a 28-year-old single mother of two and Somali immigrant living in Minneapolis, has been working at Amazon’s Shakopee fulfillment center for two years.
As a practicing Muslim, Ibrahin tries to pray five times a day. But because Amazon has the warehouse associates working on a strict hourly packing quota, she says she cannot take a prayer break. Associates are pressured to “make rate,” with the rate number increasing and decreasing depending on the season’s demand. Shakopee’s current packing rate is 240 boxes an hour, Ibrahin says, but it’s gone as high as 400. Associates are penalized if they fall behind this rate; they can get a write-up from a manager if they are too slow, which can lead to them being terminated.
Ibrahin usually chooses to pray during her timed breaks. “Breaks make our rate slow down, and then we’d be at risk of getting fired, and so most of the time we choose prayer over bathroom, and have learned to balance our bodily needs,” she told me in a recent phone interview.