Imane Boudlal, a 26 year old Muslim woman who works as a hostess at a Disneyland Resort restaurant alleged the theme park would not allow her to appear in front of patrons while wearing her traditional Muslim head scarf.
Boudlal is employed at the Storytellers Cafe inside the Grand Californian Hotel, located at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California. On Wednesday, she appeared with supporters outside the hotel after filing a religious discrimination complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The issue began on Sunday when Boudlal showed up for work wearing the traditional Muslim head scarf, called a hijab. She was told to remove it, work where she was not visible to guests, or choose to go home. She had worn the scarf in honor of the Ramadan holiday and chose to go home. Two days later she showed up again and was told the same thing.
A native of Morocco, Boudlal worked at Storytellers Cafe for over two years, but only learned she could wear the hijab to work after she was studying for her U.S. citizenship exam in June. She had asked supervisors whether she could wear the scarf and was told they would consult with the corporate office. She did not hear anything for two months and then was told it was ok to wear a head scarf, but it had to be designed by Disneyland’s costume department in order to comply with the Disney look.
Apparently, Boudlal was fitted for a scarf, but was not told when the garment would be completed. She was told she could not wear her own hijab in the interim, but chose to show up for work on Sunday with it anyways because she wanted to wear it on Ramadan.
Disney spokeswoman Suzi Brown has responded and confirmed Disney has a policy not to discriminate. Boudlal was offered a chance to work away from customers where she could wear the head covering while they searched for a compromise to cover her head in a way that fits with her hostess uniform.
“Typically, somebody in an on-stage position like hers wouldn’t wear something like that, that’s not part of the costume,” Brown said. “We were trying to accommodate her with a backstage position that would allow her to work. We gave her a couple different options and she chose not to take those and to go home.”
Boudlal’s attorney alleges otherwise. “Miss Boudlal has effectively understood that they’re not interesting in accommodating her request either in timing or good faith,” said Ameena Qazi, an attorney from the Council on American-Islamic Relations who is consulting with Boudlal.
“My advice to Disney company…take a ride on one of your own rides, a little thing called ‘It’s a Small World,’ which celebrates human diversity,” Qazi said during Wednesday’s press conference on a busy street corner outside the Grand Californian Hotel. “Imane is just celebrating that same diversity.”
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