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Muslim employee: Disney banned her head scarf

By Associated Press
Thursday, August 19, 2010 10:52 EDT
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Muslim employee claims Disneyland banned her from wearing head scarf in front of customers

A Muslim woman who works as a hostess at a Disneyland restaurant alleged Wednesday the theme park would not allow her to appear in front of customers while wearing her head scarf.

Imane Boudlal, 26, appeared outside the resort’s Grand Californian Hotel after filing a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

She said when she wore the hijab to work Sunday, her supervisors told her to remove it, work where customers couldn’t see her, or go home.

Boudlal, who wore the scarf in observance of Ramadan, chose to go home but reported to work for the next two days and was told the same thing.

“Miss Boudlal has effectively understood that they’re not interested 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.

Disneyland spokeswoman Suzi Brown said Disney has a policy not to discriminate. The resort offered Boudlal a chance to work with the head covering away from customers while Disneyland tries to find a compromise that would allow Boudlal to cover her head in a way that fits with her hostess uniform, Brown said.

“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 of different options and she chose not to take those and to go home.”

Boudlal, who is a native of Morocco, has worked at the Storyteller restaurant at the hotel for 2 1/2 years but only realized she could wear her hijab to work after studying for her U.S. citizenship exam in June, Qazi said.

She asked her supervisors if she could wear the scarf and was told they would consult with the corporate office, Qazi said. Boudlal didn’t hear anything for two months and was then told she could wear a head scarf, but it had to be designed by Disneyland’s costume department to comply with the Disney look, Qazi said.

She was fitted for a Disney-supplied head scarf but was not given a date when the garment would be finished and was told she couldn’t wear her own hijab in the interim.

Boudlal wore her own hijab to work for the first time Sunday.

“After these two months and this complicated process, she decided to come forward,” Qazi said. “She really wanted to be able to wear it on Ramadan.”

Boudlal has the support of her union, which has been in a bitter fight for months with Disneyland over an expired contract for hotel workers. Brown accused the union of distorting the facts in Boudlal’s case to distract from the key issues in the contract fight.

Leigh Shelton, a spokeswoman for the union, said Boudlal’s coming forward now had nothing to do with the negotiations.

“There’s absolutely no correlation,” said Shelton, who’s with Unite Here Local 11.

Source: AP News

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