Disney worker rejects employer’s substitute hijab

Hijab substitute sidexside

ANAHEIM, Calif. - The Muslim restaurant hostess whom Disney has prohibited from wearing her hijab, a religious head scarf, while at work has rejected as "offensive" what the entertainment giant describes as an attempt to accommodate her.

The hostess has been sent home from work without pay seven times since Aug. 15 when, just days after the Islamic holy month of Ramadan began, Imane Boudlal, 26, wore her hijab to work. She was offered a choice between working in a location out of view of customers or going home.

Boudlal had tried for two months to reach an accommodation with the company, which said it was considering her request for a "religious accommodation," requests Disney says it considers.

Disney officials yesterday offered Boudlal a hat to wear on top of a bonnet in place of her own white headscarf that the company has said doesn't meet the "Disney look."

After trying on the new uniform, Boudlal told her managers it does not meet her religious needs. Boudlal said she found the hat embarrassing, especially because she would be the only restaurant employee forced to wear it.

"The hat makes a joke of me and my religion, and draws even more attention to me," Boudlal said. "It's unacceptable."

"They don't want me to look like a Muslim," Boudlal continued. "They just don't want the head covering to look like a hijab."

Workers at Disney are represented by the union, Unite Here, Local 11, which is backing Boudlal in her fight.

"This is an important fight for all workers, regardless of their religious beliefs or background," said Leigh Shelton, a union spokesperson. "For all workers, human rights are not something that should be checked at the door. On the job, we all still have our human rights."

Shelton blasted Disney for what she called "hypocrisy."

"They boast about how they support inclusiveness and encourage of cultural diversity with all their 'It's a Small World After All' stuff and then they turn around and deny this young woman her right to wear her head scarf."

For Boudlal, the battle began more than two months ago when she requested a "religious accommodation" to the company's dress rules. She wanted to have the issue settled so she could wear the scarf during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan and beyond.

Only after Disney stalled for two months did she arrive at work on Aug.15, wearing the head scarf.

Boudlal said she learned about her rights while studying to take an exam for American citizenship, which she passed, before she became a U.S. citizen in June.

"I realized the Constitution tells me I can be a Muslim, and I can wear the head scarf," she said.

"I don't understand why I cannot wear my white head scarf that already matches my restaurant uniform, and be left to do my job," said Boudlal. "My scarf doesn't do anything to harm Disney or the guests."

Boudlal has filed a discrimination complaint against Disney with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Photo: Imane Boudlal, left, in her personal head scarf  and next to her is Disney's proposed substitute.

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  • Why should she be exempted from the dress code rules that apply to EVERYONE of Disney's employees? I have met executives who wear a Disney nametag and call themselves 'cast-members'. Whiny girl here is not special, other than the fact that she wants special treatment to violate company policy. The Disney policy on costumes is spelled out very clearly to all employees on hire. They have offered her several options to keep her headscarf and a job at Disney, and her refusal tells me that she's doing this to get attention and most likely hoping for a fat payout of go-away-money so she never has to work again. Who has deeper pockets than The Mouse?

    Posted by emeryannharris, 09/16/2010 4:06pm (5 years ago)

  • You started out not wearing it, and that expressed religion as personal, and not public which "is" the American way. I am not big on France, but, they flatly do not allow any religious display - period.

    This is the beauty of the USA.. Assimilate in public, follow the law instead of trying to distort it, and have great personal freedom.. That "must" have appealed to you or you would not have gone to the trouble of be becoming and American.

    Attempt to accommodate does not mean "your way", it means something less, i.e., a compromise. Jews, Christians, Muslims who are Americans - Love this country and would defend it because it gives you, me, "more" freedom than other countries. Americans, beside the current President do "not" apologize for this, we rejoice in it, we have fought for it. Americans choose to be here for this level of freedom.

    You have a choice, and so does Disney. Right or wrong the freedom of choice is a right.


    Posted by David, 09/10/2010 10:57am (5 years ago)

  • She knew the rules when she was hired. Disney has tried to accommodate her with a costume modification or offering her other positions. By her saying that working in the back is humiliating, is she saying that she's better than the workers in the back? Shame on Disney for taking too long to deal with her initial request for an accommodation for the head scarf. BUT, I think that Disney should now have the right to fire her because she violated the costume policy when she wore her costume for non work reasons when she wore it and her name tag at the publicity events in front of the Grand Californian.

    Posted by Jeff, 09/01/2010 6:09pm (5 years ago)

  • Yes J.H, if you are asking me. The the Bill of Rights gives us permission to criticize out employers as well.

    In what regards are you referencing the constitution? Do you think she has right to ware a hajab or not? The constitution gives us the right to ware what we want.

    You may want to be clearer about what you mean.

    The constitution gives Freedom of Religion.

    Posted by John Kalwaic, 08/27/2010 11:13am (5 years ago)


    Posted by j. h, 08/26/2010 8:54pm (5 years ago)

  • Disney has also made cartoons with Islamic fairy tails like Alladin and his lamp as well as Ali-baba and the forty thievse. so why is a headscarf a problem?

    Posted by John Kalwaic, 08/26/2010 8:29am (5 years ago)

  • Sunglasses aren't an essential part of a religion...

    Posted by Jamie, 08/26/2010 1:46am (5 years ago)

  • Disney tries very hard to "put on a show" everyday for their guests. This is what separates Disney from other entertainment companies. Disney is not saying you cannot be Muslim. They are not saying you may not wear the scarf. They are saying you may not wear the scarf while working in the view of guests. The head scarf does NOT follow Disney's dress code. Sunglasses* don't follow Disney's dress code. So what are you going to do? Sue them for discriminating people that wear sun glasses?

    Dress Code: a set of RULES specifying the garb or type of clothing to be worn by a group or by people under specific circumstances

    I think someone needs to tell her what dress code means. ^

    Disney has tried to accommodate this woman by letting her keep her job. You don't have to work in the view of guests to get paid. I bet there are plenty "backstage" jobs she can fulfill. There are thousands of people out there that would love to have a job. Working for Disney is not a requirement. There is nothing that says you have to work for them. Why doesn't this woman except the fact that her scarf does not follow the dress code. If she HAS to wear this scarf of hers, why doesn't she quit her job and find one that will let her wear it.

    *The Disney Looks says that sunglasses are not permitted except when the cast member is working in direct sunlight and feels they are necessary.

    Posted by Matthew, 08/24/2010 4:30pm (5 years ago)

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