A federal jury ruled that a hotel in Miami, in the United States, must compensate a 60-year-old Haitian immigrant for religious discrimination with $ 21 million (about $ 65 billion in Colombian pesos).
This is Marie Jean Pierre, who in 2006 started working washing dishes in the kitchen of a Hilton hotel, in the exclusive Brickell neighborhood in Miami. According to Pierre, at that moment, to access the position, he clarified to the administrative staff of the hotel that he could not work on Sunday because he was a missionary in the Church of the Soldiers of Christ.
"I love God, I do not work on Sunday because that day is to honor God," Pierre said in an interview with the US NBC network.
His condition, says the missionary, has been respected by the hotel without hesitation for almost a decade. In October 2015, however, George Colon, the kitchen manager, included him on Sunday.
Faced with this situation, Pierre asked his pastor a letter explaining that to force her to work on Sunday would violate her religious convictions, but her boss, the missionary, explained to the newspaper. The Washington Post, ignored his request.
After refusing his request, Pierre says that for several months he has managed to agree with his colleagues the shift changes to be covered on Sunday. However, in March 2016, she was fired from the hotel for "misconduct, negligence and unjustified absences".
Pierre took his case to the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In the argument that the hotel discriminated against his religious beliefs, and thanks to the advice he had received in the commission, the missionary filed a lawsuit against Park Hotels and Resorts – formerly known as Hilton Worldwide – the owner of the hotel, claiming that they had violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 there.
This law that Pierre cited prohibits discrimination in employment in the United States by race, color, religion, sex or origin. "The hotel is obliged to respect the religious convictions of its employees and could easily resolve the issue," said Marc Brumer, Pierre's lawyer, to the local press.
Last Monday, January 14, a federal jury finally decided that the hotel company must compensate Pierre with 21.5 million dollars. Of this amount, 36 thousand dollars (just over 112 million Colombian pesos) would be used to cover lost wages and allowances, while another 500 thousand dollars (about 1,500 million Colombian pesos) would be paid for the emotional damage and the damage. mental anguish. .
The remaining amount, which would amount to approximately $ 21 million, will cover punitive or exemplary damages, which are those that are granted to punish a defendant through negligence or in cases of serious misconduct.
However, Brumer, Pierre's lawyer, clarified The Washington Post that of this last figure your customer will not receive more than 300 thousand dollars (just over 93.6 million Colombian pesos), because the law establishes the maximum in case of punitive damages. Apparently, the jury was not aware of this condition when it made its decision, Brumer explained.
The hotel is required to respect the religious beliefs of its employees and could easily have resolved the issue
"What matters is not money, it is correcting what is wrong, it is a great day for religious freedom and the protection of workers", said the lawyer in an interview with the local press.
For their part, in an interview with NBC, the lawyers of the hotel company have assured that they intend to appeal against the sentence. "We are very disappointed by the verdict of the jury and we do not believe it is supported by the facts of this case or by law," Park Hotels and Resorts said in a statement released by the television network.
And the document concludes: "During the 10 years in which Mrs. Pierre has worked at the hotel, multiple concessions have been made to fulfill her personal and religious commitments".