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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Muslim employee rejects Disney’s hat alternative

    ANAHEIM, Calif. — A Muslim employee is refusing to wear a hat and bonnet that Disney provided in place of a head scarf, which she wants to leave on at work for religious reasons.

    Imane Boudlal, a restaurant hostess at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel, last week in a press conference accused Disney of religious discrimination for refusing to let her wear a hijab, a head scarf, in public view.

    On Monday, Disney offered Boudlal a bonnet with a hat to wear at work in public.

    Boudlal rejected the new headwear and went home for a seventh time, according to the hotel workers’ union, Unite Here Local 11. Disney has offered to let her work behind the scenes with the head scarf, but Boudlal has refused.

    “”The hat makes a joke of me and my religion, and draws even more attention to me,”” Boudlal said in a prepared statement. “”It’s unacceptable.””

    Suzi Brown, a Disneyland Resort spokeswoman, said managers are still trying to meet Boudlal’s request after providing options, including alternative costumes. The company also offered her four different jobs that would allow her to wear her own head scarf.

    “”We provided Ms. Boudlal with several options, including a modified costume that includes a blouse with a higher neckline and a newly designed head covering that meets our costuming guidelines and which we believe provides a reasonable accommodation of Ms. Boudal’s religious beliefs,”” Brown said in a prepared statement.

    Boudlal could not immediately be reached for further comment. Her attorney also could not be reached.

    Some Muslim women opt to wear head scarves over their hair and necks as a form of modesty.

    Boudlal first reported to work with a hijab last week. Disney assigned Boudlal to work in a back room so she could wear the head scarf while the company worked on a solution. Boudlal decided to go home instead without pay.

    She said she filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. A copy of the complaint has yet to be released and the commission declined to confirm the receipt of a complaint.

    “”They don’t want me to look Muslim,”” Boudlal said in the prepared statement. “”They just don’t want the head covering to look like a hijab.””

    The Council on American-Islamic Relations is supporting Boudlal’s actions.

    “”Disney’s treating the hijab as a mere piece of clothing that must be downplayed or hidden from guests’ view is unreasonable and discriminatory,”” said Affad Shaikh, the council’s civil rights manager, in a prepared statement. “”Disney should be able to accommodate Ms. Boudlal’s request to wear a hijab (even if it’s a substitute hijab that Disney insists she wear) in a manner that preserves her Muslim identity as well as her human dignity. The onus is on Disney to say that her wearing a scarf in her current position would be burdensome for them.””

    Federal law requires employers to give “”reasonable accommodations”” to workers so they can practice their religion, as long as it doesn’t create an “”undue hardship,”” such as safety problems.

    Disney is known for its strict dress code, called the Disney Look. In other cases for religious reasons, Disney has offered accommodations, such as longer skirt hems, skirts instead of pants, and hats as substitutes for religious head wear.

    “”Disney is an entertainment company,”” Brown said in a prepared statement. “”Our theme parks and resorts are the stage and our costumed cast members (employees) are an important part of the show. When cast members are hired, regardless of their diverse beliefs, the expectation to comply with our appearance guidelines is made abundantly clear.””

    In 2004, Disney World in Florida was sued by a female Muslim employee who wanted to wear a head scarf to work. The case was settled out of court and the terms were confidential.

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