Ex-Worker, Imane Boudlal, Sues Disney For Not Letting Her Wear Muslim Head Scarf
A former Disneyland employee who says she was forbidden to wear a Muslim head scarf at work has filed a lawsuit against the Walt Disney Co. for discrimination.
The federal suit was filed Monday in Los Angeles on behalf of Imane Boudlal, who began working as a hostess at a Disneyland Resort cafe in 2008, but hasn't worked at the Anaheim attraction for about two years.
In her lawsuit, Boudlal says she was discriminated against and harassed because of her religious beliefs, the Los Angeles Times reports. She also alleges that she unfairly lost her job in 2010 after refusing to remove the Muslim head scarf, known as a hijab, that she wore while working.
She also alleges that Disney failed to respond to verbal and written complaints she made against her co-workers, who she says called her a "terrorist" and "camel," and said she was learning to make bombs at her mosque.
Boudlal said that she was forbidden to wear the head scarf because it wasn't part of her approved work costume. Disney maintains strict standards for the appearance of its employees, which even extend to the color of contact lenses that its workers wear.
In an interview, Boudlal told the newspaper that since the dispute her life has been difficult. "I thought it was just a matter of complaining and a few days, and it wouldn't affect my life," she said. "But it turns out ... nothing has been done."
The employee's suit follows an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruling earlier this month, granting her the right to sue.
Disney spokeswoman Suzi Brown told the Times that the company tried to accommodate Boudlal's needs, as it has with other employees of various faiths.
Boudlal was presented "with multiple options" and was offered several roles that would have allowed her to wear her own hijab, Brown said. "Unfortunately, she rejected all of our efforts and has since refused to come to work."
The "options" took the form of hats (such as the one that Boudlal wears in the photo above) and Disney-themed scarves, Boudlal said.
Boudlal, who has a degree in hotel management, said that she's concerned that publicity from the lawsuit will make it difficult for her to find a job in her field. So she has returned to college in the hope of finding a new career, telling the Times, "I just want to pick something that will get me a job."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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David Schepp has spent more than a dozen years covering business news for the electronic and print media, including Dow Jones Newswires, BBC News, Gannett Co., and most recently at AOL's DailyFinance. Nearly 10 years ago, he started writing a weekly People@Work column, looking in depth at issues facing workers in today's workplace. Follow David on Twitter. Email David at email@example.com. Add David to your Google+ circles.more...