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Ex-Disneyland worker expected to sue over head scarf, alleged harassment

A former Disneyland employee is expected to announce Monday a federal lawsuit against the entertainment giant, saying she was harassed and unfairly removed from her hostess job after refusing to remove her head scarf at work.

The dispute between Imane Boudlal, who is Muslim, and Disney first went public in August 2010, after the now 28-year-old first arrived at work wearing her hijab. Boudlal said she was told that wearing her scarf was a violation of company policy and that she would either have to remove it, cover it with a hat or take a job working out of public sight.

Boudlal refused. She has not worked at Disney since Aug. 21, 2010, said Mark Rosenbaum, an attorney from the ACLU of Southern California who is representing Boudlal.

She filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2010 and received a “notice of right-to-sue” from the agency Aug. 8, opening the door for litigation.

Boudlal's attorneys also said their Moroccan-born client was repeatedly harassed by her co-workers from the beginning of her employment, calling her "terrorist," "camel" and "Kunta Kinte," the name of a slave in Alex Haley's novel, "Roots." Boudlal reported the incidents to her managers both verbally and in writing, Rosenbaum said, with no results.

"Walt Disney Parks and Resorts has a long history of accommodating a variety of religious requests from cast members of all faiths," said Suzi Brown, a Disney spokeswoman. "However, because we have not seen the lawsuit, we cannot comment specifically about this situation at this time."

Boudlal is not the only Muslim woman who said she was told she would have to work out of sight if she chose to wear a hijab to her Disneyland job. In 2010, Disney officials said they were able to reach a compromise with Noor Abdallah, then a 22-year-old intern from Chicago, and allowed her to wear a fitted blue scarf topped by a beret-style hat.

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-- Kate Mather

Follow Kate Mather on Twitter or Google+.

 
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