Discrimination | £16m awarded to worker after being forced to work Sundays

£16m awarded to worker after being forced to work Sundays

A Miami woman who worked as a dishwasher has been awarded $21.5million (£16.6million) after her employer was found to have violated her religious rights by repeatedly scheduling her to work on Sundays before firing her – NBC News reports.

Marie Jean Pierre, who worked for Conrad Miami, sued Virginia-based Park Hotels & Resorts in 2017 for violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The landmark law bans employment discrimination on the basis of race, colour, religion, sex or national origin.

She said that she told her employer when she was first hired that she could not work on Sundays. "I love God,” Pierre told NBC Miami. “No work on Sunday, because Sunday I honour God."

However, in 2009 the firm began to demand that she worked on Sundays. She decided to resign, but in an effort to persuade her not to quit her request was granted until 2015. Then, the kitchen manager at the Conrad Miami, "demanded" she work Sundays, and for a short time allowed her to swap shifts with other co-workers to have the day off.

However, on March 31, 2016, Pierre says she was fired for alleged misconduct, negligence and “unexcused absences,” according to the lawsuit.

The court agreed that the business was in violation of the law, with the jury also finding she was due back wages and compensation for emotional pain and mental anguish.

Despite the apparently huge pay-out, a cap on punitive damages will prevent Pierre from receiving anywhere close to that amount. "I asked for $50million, knowing that I was capped at $300,000," her lawyer told NBC News on Wednesday. "I didn't do this for money. I did this to right the wrongs."

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Pierre’s former employer said it was "very disappointed by the jury's verdict, and don't believe that it is supported by the facts of this case or the law" in a statement.

"During Ms. Pierre's ten years with the hotel, multiple concessions were made to accommodate her personal and religious commitments," a Spokeswoman said.

"We intend to appeal and demonstrate that the Conrad Miami was and remains a welcoming place for all guests and employees."

In the UK, employees are protected from religious discrimination by the law. Citizens Advice They say discrimination can include:

  • Dismissing someone because of their religion – for example, sacking a Rastafarian because they may smoke cannabis.

  • Advertising for job applicants of one religion only – for example, asking for only Christians in order for them to ‘fit in’ with the established team.

  • Requiring employees to dress in a certain way – for example, making a Muslim woman remove a headscarf.

  • Requiring someone not to wear sacred items - for example, a Sikh man might be required to remove their Kirpan, a ceremonial knife. However, if the employer can justify this on health and safety grounds, this wouldn't count as discrimination.

  • Making staff work at times that they cannot work because of your religion – for example, trying to force a Jewish person who observes the Sabbath to work late on Fridays.

  • Victimisation – for example, if someone is labelled a trouble-maker for discussing religious discrimination issues at work.

  • Bullying or harassment at work because of religion – for example, teasing a Christian who reads the Bible during their lunch breaks.

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Comments (1)

  • Sir
    Fri, 18 Jan 2019 1:32pm GMT
    Why take a job where you have to work on Sundays when you don't want to work Sundays ? - looking for trouble ? Isn't the art of job-hunting looking for a job that suits you ? - not finding any old job and then trying to force the employer to make it work around you ?
    It's like taking a job in a bakery and not liking an early morning start (because of your disability) ! If you don't like it, don't take it !

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