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Disneyland worker, barred from wearing hijab scarf as restaurant hostess, files federal complaint

A Disneyland Resort restaurant hostess filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Wednesday because she said she is not being allowed to wear her hijab in her current position.

The complaint came shortly before Imane Boudlal, 26, made a public attempt -– in front of videographers, photographers and trailing reporters -– to begin her afternoon shift at the Storytellers Cafe at the Grand Californian Hotel.

In a news conference immediately following, Boudlal said she was told to take off her hijab, the head scarf some Muslim women wear, or work in a position in what the resort terms "backstage."

Boudlal refused and walked out of the hotel, again flanked by media and community members, who briefly began chanting.

“I’ve been sent home,” she said. “I thought maybe today is my lucky day because I have my friends, my supporters.”

The attempt to work was her fourth – albeit the first in front of the cameras – after Boudlal began wearing the hijab to work Sunday at the cafe, where she has been a hostess for two years.

On the previous days she was also told to take the scarf off or take a job in the back, said both Boudlal and a Disneyland spokeswoman.

“She’s been allowed to work,” said spokeswoman Suzi Brown. “We’ve given her the opportunity to work in a backstage role the last several shifts that she’s come in.”

Brown said the hijab would be a departure from the costume policy for the job Boudlal has as hostess.

“It has to do with the costume; every role at Disneyland Resort has a specific costume,” she said, adding that Disneyland has a number of employees who do wear religious clothing and work behind the scenes. She could not recall whether there were any who worked directly with guests.

-- Raja Abdulrahim

Comments () | Archives (68)

Deport her.
I can't wear an afro either. Have to cut or tame it with chemicals. This is America, and that's a privately-owned business, not a government job.

Please send her home. ( To her place of birth. )

Why can't these arabs assimilate. As an Egyptian, I find it pathetic that these arabs want preferential treatment in the US. She's just looking for a attention. I hope Disney gives her a job in the back, back in Iraq. Immigrants need to show some appreciation and respect for the freedoms this country provides and don't abuse them.

The Qur'an does not call for women to cover their heads. Surah 24:31 "And tell the believing women to subdue their eyes, and maintain their chastity. They shall not reveal any parts of their bodies, excepty that which is necessary. They shall cover the bosom (chest), and shall not relax this code in thepresence of other than their husbands, their fathers..." and Surah 33:59 "O prophet, tell your wives, your daughters, and the wives of the believers that they shall lengthen their garments. Thus, they will be recognized and avoid being insulted. Allah is Forgiver, Most Merciful." This is "cultural dress" which should be worn in their (Muslims) perspective countries. American companies should not have to change their policies or dress code. As far as Ramadhan it does not state women have to cover their heads Surah 2:185 "Ramadhan is the month (September) during which the Quran was revealed, providing guidance for the people, clear teachings aand the statue book. Those of you who witness this month shall fast therein." ... This verse does not talk about women dressing. This is horrible to attribute the eastern cultural dress to the Qur'an or Ramadhan. Disney challenge them to show you where it states you must cover your "head" during their made-up Ramadhan just because they sited the MOON!!! Pagans

If it's just a head scarf covering that leaves the face bare, it's fine with me. Something that covers her face, no. ANYTHING that covers the face. Including Jason face masks from Nightmare on Elm Street!

Similarly I don't care about people's hair cuts. Or whether they wear Christian crosses.

The religious aspect I don't care about. I believe that it's Muslim fanatics who are the danger to us in America, not Muslims in general.

Soooo Disneyland, one is not allowed to express their religious freedoms in your park and work for you, eh?

I could understand her desire to wear the hijab to recover an ethnic identity and heritage, but to work at disneyland where one's job is surrounded by a theme? She shouldn't complain.

How did she get the job in the first place?

Get the lawyers and builders ready Disney along with her Hijab she'll require that you build a private sanctuary so that she may wash up and pray 5 times a day ...
This is only the beginning people in all this is called using our laws against us and attempting an agenda . .. Get ready for Mickey Mouse hats styled in the manner of
the Hijab ... Awesome !

Assimilate to what? I just moved to California, should I assimilate by getting a boob job and a fake tan? Don't we as Americans constantly preach freedom of religion and yet we want to make an exception when it comes to Muslims. We pride ourselves as Americans for being better than Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia because we allow our women to walk around in short shorts and a bra (that's freedom right?) but when a young Muslim girl wants to cover her hair as a sign of modesty and respect for herself she gets told she can no longer work the job she's been doing for 2 years.

We all have restrictions at work and most of us just deal with them! Especially beacuse our employers are not a major cooperations like Disney. As a Disneyland guest I would like to see that everyone is treated fairly- as in they look like everyone else they are working with no one is given any special priveleges. What next, my "religion" believes in nose rings and mohawks? NOT APPROPRIATE for Disney!

Christian fantics are just as dangerous as Muslim fanatics. To me, this is less about religion and more about making a statment. There is no mention in the article about her nationality or country of origin. Maybe these kind of prejudice remarks are why she feels she needs to make this statment. Rosa Parks was tired too.

Disney also serves pork how does she avoid that issue ... Personally I wouldn't think Disney was an ideal held in high Muslim esteem ... Seriously , Princess Jasmine may have actually been a recent Time Magazine cover girl if we all think about it... Love that taliband .

Everyone should have a right to practice their religion - we cannot force those who believe in other religions to change their beliefs.

However, there is a line to be drawn in the sand. Business owners also have the right to hire and fire based on the qualifications of their employees. Ugly and fat girls cannot sue model agencies for discrimination. Hospitals cannot and should not be sued for firing incompetent doctors. Factories are well within their rights to fire workers who never come in for work, or never follow directions. Society will break down if in the name of "progress" private enterprise cannot discriminate on the basis of skill, ability to perform, and ability to follow orders.

This girl clearly fails to follow the orders of her boss. She also refuses to perform her duty, which is to dress up in a silly Disney outfit and serve drinks. Her job is to maintain the atmosphere there, and she is refusing to do it. This is a clear and cut case.

If we let her win this case, then consider this - imagine watching a cowboy movie, and suddenly one of the cowgirls in the background is wearing a hijab. They hired a bunch of extras, and they can't fire the person who suddenly shows up to work in a hijab and refuses to take it off!

If this case wins, I'm going to make my own religion that mandates that all males can only work 1 day a week, the rest are holy. If my employer makes me work, I'm going to sue them!

Many privately owned companies require employees to wear certain work clothing to fulfill their work responsibilities. If Ms. Boudlal can not perform her job duties, then she should consider pursuing other job and self-employment opportunities. Because only in America can you truly have the freedom to do it! And, please do not abuse the opportunities that your new citizenship has provided you. I find it odd that Ms. Boudlal complied for two years with the work requirements until she gained American citizenship and suddenly she felt that she needed to wear her religious hijab to work??? Doesn't make sense!!! Ms. Boudlal if you don't like Disney's employee rules, you have a RIGHT to find work elsewhere. I urge you to appreciate what this country has provided you! In this case, Disney has the right to determine what the appropriate attire is for the hostess position.

Odd Ms. Boudlal did the job for two years without her hijab - then one day just decided couldn't bare it anymore - need to wear it??? What's that all about??? Let's be reasonable and fair! Why was she able to perform her job duties for two years? And, now suddenly needs to wear her hijab??? Disney is a privately owned company that creates theme oriented attire for all their amusement park jobs. If employees don't like the work attire, you have the freedom to pursue work elsewhere.

The mosque near the WTC site should be treated as any other project. This employee should as well. Whether a face-concealing garment should be worn to work is a decision the employer should make. If Disney in its corporate wisdom chooses a particular dress code, this hostess should comply or seek employment elsewhere. In any case, this is a question that should have been reviewed and decided at Disney rather than in the courts.

It is a private company, change your dress or go back to the country that allows that dress. Conform or leave

What exactly is the theme at Storyteller's Cafe, which is part of a hotel and not the theme park? I've been there and it's overpriced food in a decent setting, but it isn't as if a head scarf would seem out of place. Are you really going to freak out if your server is wearing one? It does not cover the face. There is no reason to put her in a behind-the-scenes role.

A headscarf would be appropriate at nearly every job at Disneyland, from Tomorrowland (Muslims in space!) to New Orleans Square. It's really not that big of a deal.

Disney does discriminate even hispanics as middle east looking

Disney offered other positions where she can where her hijab. That is a reasonable accommodation. It's not about assimilation or religious intolerance. It's about an immature young woman who thinks she's entitled to whatever she wants.

Personally, I'd like to wear shorts, a tank-top and flip-flops to work but my job has a DRESS CODE! I'd like to wear my old jeans and comfy sneakers but my job has a DRESS CODE! In fact, some days I'd like to roll out of bed and turn up in my pajamas and slippers but my job has a DRESS CODE!
But if I call my shorts, jeans and pajamas part of my "religion" I can alert the media and sue for my right to wear anything I want and flip my finger my job's DRESS CODE!

Did she just start wearing a hijab or did no one say anything until now? It's odd that she worked at the cafe for 2 years and now it's an issue?

They showed a clip of her on tv where she explained how they told her she could work at the back or go home. And she chose to go home because (as she put it) "why would I work at the back?" As if only denizens work backstage? I guess she's too good to work backstage.

Disneyland has a strict uniform policy (which also includes hair, facial hair, tattoos, piercings, etc) - did she not know this when she was hired?

I used to work at disney land. Had to close my stretched ears. They made cut my hair because they constantly told me that it wasnt disney look. I cut my hair off to a #2 . Disney is awesome. Best job i ever had. People from all over the world work and visit and i think disney is carefull of who represents them... This girl just started wearing the scarf cuz she recently got her citizenship and learned her rights. But i still think its kind of dumb. Everyone wants to have long hair, died hair, tattoos. But its not the disney look. Thats y i quit. Got tatted , piercings n more.. If u dont like the damnn rules go else where. She survived this long with out the scarf while working there. What is gnna happen if she cont. Not to wear it.. She just wants money! Cuz disney is quick to settle out of court.. Good night america =P

As a Disney employee myself, I cannot understand how after two years of following the rules (which are explained during the hiring process), she all of a sudden remembers that she has religious beliefs and wants to follow them. Like many of the comments have said, Disney is a private company. They have a "Disney Look" that we ALL have to follow. We provide a certain atmosphere for all our guests and that means that we have to play our parts, even if it's a silly looking costume that doesn't fit very well. EVERY part of the Disneyland Resort (both theme parts, downtown, and all the hotels) have a theme. So to SPOKKER, anything that didn't follow the theme/look of the restaurant WOULD be out of place. It's called the Storyteller's Cafe because it tells a story...as does any part of Disney. You don't ever see a Tomorrowland cast member working in Adventureland, or Main Street, or DCA, or the Hotels. They only belong in Tomorrowland. And that goes for any other role.

Personally, I know Disney does accommodate people for religious purposes. From the very start, I made it very clear that I would not work Friday sunset to Saturday sunset. I observe the Sabbath and that is very important to me. When I originally interviewed for a job, I was told that I had to be fully available Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Because of that (and a few other reasons), I decided to not take the original position I had been offered. My interviewer was very respectful of that and helped me find another position that would better accommodate my needs and preferances. If Boudlal was so intent on observing her religious practices, she should have made her points clear from the start. I'm sure Disney would have been able to accommodate her and give her a job where she would be comfortable and free to wear her hijab. And it's not like they didn't allow her to work. If Disney would have fired her on the spot for not wanting to take it off...then that would be a different story. They still gave her the opportunity to work. If she doesn't like that, then she should quit and find another job. She should have made the decision two years ago and not have waited until now.

I'm on Disney's side on this one, and not just because I work there. I could go on and reply to each of your comments...but I think I've made my point.

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