Imane Boudlal, employed for the last two years as a hostess at the Storyteller’s Café in Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, has filed a discrimination complaint Aug. 18th against the corporation that owns “the happiest place on Earth.”
The reason, they have repeatedly sent her home without pay for refusing to remove her headscarf at work. She has made four attempts since Sunday to start her shift while wearing it; the last occasion was on Wednesday after she’d filed the complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity. Boudlal brought reporters and photographers with her to document the scene that time.
But is it really as open-and-shut a case of religious discrimination as it appears?
The Storyteller’s Cafe is a themed restaurant (the theme there is based on the cartoon characters Chip ‘n Dale) and like all of Disney’s theme restaurants, it has a dress code. The hostesses work uniform there consists of camp-style green slacks, orange vest and long-sleeved white shirt. Boudlal, who was born in Morocco but has recently achieved US citizenship, wanted to wear a white hijab as well.
And Disney officials say that Boudlal has never been denied the opportunity to work. The Los Angeles Times quotes Disneyland spokesperson Suzi Brown:
“She’s been allowed to work. We’ve given her the opportunity to work in a backstage role the last several shifts that she’s come in.”
Brown said they tried to accomodate her needs this way because the hijab was too great a departure from the costume policy for hostesses.
Boudlal refused to work in any behind the scenes capacity though.
Last week she was taken to the costume department to look for possible alternatives — a hat was suggested — and she was told she could not wear her own hijab, said Ameena Qazi, staff attorney for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which is representing Boudlal…
“It has to do with the costume, every role at Disneyland Resort has a specific costume,” Brown said, adding that a number of employees wear religious clothing and work behind the scenes. She could not recall whether there were any who worked directly with guests. (from the L.A. Times)
Imane Boudlal, along with her attorney, held a news conference Wednesday in front of Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa and framed the issue as being about diversity.
“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,”(CAIR attorney) Qazi said. “Imane is just celebrating that same diversity.” (from the L.A. Times)
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