For immediate release
August 18, 2010
Muslim woman challenges Disney's discriminatory policy barring religious headscarf for "front of the house" positions
ANAHEIM – A Muslim employee in Disneyland’s Grand Californian Hotel has been sent home from work with no pay for refusing to take off her hijab while working as a hostess in one of the hotel’s restaurants.
Today, Imane Boudlal filed a complaint against Disney with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission – the federal agency that enforces anti-discrimination laws in the workplace.
On Aug. 15, just days after the Islamic holy month of Ramadan began, Imane Boudlal, a 26-year-old student and Anaheim resident, wore her hijab to work greeting customers at the Storyteller’s Restaurant in Disneyland.
But Disney told Boudlal that if she wanted to work as a hostess she had to remove her hijab because it did not comply with the "Disney Look." Disney further advised Boudlal that if she refused to remove her hijab, she could either work a back-of-the-house position where any customers would not see her, or else go home. Disney maintained the same position when Boudlal attempted twice more to work her hostess position while wearing her hijab.
Boudlal said she was compelled to challenge Disney’s discriminatory treatment after realizing her own rights. She was granted U.S. citizenship in June and while studying for the accompanying exam, learned of her first amendment right to religious freedom.
"I realized the Constitution tells me I can be Muslim, and I can wear the head scarf," Boudlal said. "Who is Disney to tell me I cannot?"
Before challenging the policy, Boudlal tried to work with her employer. She requested what’s known as a "religious accommodation," and waited more than two months while Disney claimed to be considering her needs.
"Finally, I said ‘enough,’" Boudlal said. "They cannot continue to violate my rights, and just string me along. Disney is not above the law."
Boudlal refused Disney’s offer to allow her to remain at work with the hijab in a back of the house position – out of guests’ view.
"Their offer to put me in the back is humiliating," Boudlal said. "They’re saying because I’m Arab, because I’m Moroccan, because I’m Muslim, they don’t want to see me in the front."
Today the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Greater Los Angeles Area (CAIR-LA) also sent a letter to Disney demanding that Disney accommodate Boudlal’s request to wear her headscarf, and to amend its "look" policy to more reasonably accommodate those women who make such requests on religious grounds.
"There is no justification for Disney’s refusal to allow Ms. Boudlal to wear her headscarf at work," said Ameena Mirza Qazi, Deputy Executive Director and Staff Attorney for CAIR-LA. "To say that her headscarf would somehow impact guests is not only insulting to her, but is deeply offensive to the thousands of Muslims who open up their pocket-books at Disney parks and resorts every year."