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Disney Sued For Not Letting Muslim Woman Wear Hijab

Disney Sued For Not Letting Muslim Woman Wear Hijab

Imane Boudlal, a naturalized US citizen born in Morocco who is Muslim, is suing the Walt Disney Company for religious discrimination and harassment. While working as a hostess at the Storytellers Cafe Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California, in 2010, Boudlal says she was forbidden to wear her headscarf because it was not part of her approved work costume.

As she said in a statement:

Disneyland calls itself the happiest place on earth, but I faced harassment as soon as I started working there. It only got worse when I decided to wear a hijab. My journey towards wearing it couldn’t have been more American; it began at my naturalization ceremony I realized that I had the freedom to be who I want and freely practice my religion. Neither Disney nor anyone else can take that from me.

In the complaint filed with the ACLU of Southern California in the Central District of California, Boudlal says that she asked supervisors for permission to wear a hijab. Not only was her request denied but she was told that wearing the hijab would “negatively affect patrons’ experiences at the Storytellers Cafe.”

Boudlal says that coworkers and supervisors directed anti-Muslim and anti-Arab slurs towards her, calling her a “terrorist,” “camel” and “Kunta Kinte” (a reference to the slave from Alex Haley’s book Roots) and told her that “Arabs are terrorists, that she spoke a terrorist language and was trained to make bombs.” After telling her manager about such harassment, Boudlai said that it was acknowledged it as a problem but no action was taken. She was told that it would take time for a change.”

If even some of these allegations are true, I’m deeply disturbed by such behavior on the part of Disney employees and that this was allowed to continue.

Boudlal at first did not wear her hijab for fear of being fired. After being told she could not wear it, she tried to wear a hijab in colors matching her uniform or bearing a Disney logo but was told she would have to work at the back of the cafe or wear a hat on top of her headscarf. Disney offered her the option of wearing specially designed uniforms that a Muslim employee who was a vacation planner at a Florida Disney park had worn after being told she could not wear her hijab.

Boudlal refused these options. After three months of working at Disney and attempting to contact other supervisors, Boudlal filed a written complaint. One supervisor told her to stop complaining and she was eventually taken off the schedule and fired.

Disney’s view is that the company offered Boudlal “multiple options”:

Walt Disney Parks and Resorts has a history of accommodating religious requests from cast members of all faiths.We presented Ms Boudlal with multiple options to accommodate her religious beliefs, as well as offered her several roles that would have allowed her to wear her own hijab. Unfortunately, she rejected all of our efforts and has since refused to come to work.

Boudlal is seeking punitive damages from Disney as well as a permanent injunction that employees not be prohibited for wearing hijabs and for Disney anti-harassment training to include Muslim issues.

Disney may have a “history” of accommodating the religious beliefs of its employees but in Boudlal’s case, its inadequate and insensitive response to her requests is completely behind the times.


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9:43PM PST on Dec 18, 2013

I’m sure you will provide the more awesome blogs like these blogs that I’ve enjoyed a lot.

joan calabrese mon cheri

6:20AM PDT on Sep 20, 2012

Hey, private company, private policy. Go wear your religious garb on your own time. This is NOT discrimination - anyone, regardless of their faith, would have to wear that costume. Why do these religious bigots think theirs is the only one and they can impose their beliefs on everyone else? Fire her and ban her from all Disney parks. Hope the court dismissed the suit immediately. And why did she come to the US anyway if she does not like our customs?

2:26PM PDT on Sep 19, 2012

I read about this before she went to an attny. This lady had worked at Disney for almost 3 yrs before she wore her scarf. She never mentioned it in the interview. When she did ask Disney to let her wear her scarf, disney said that they could give her a different job, so they could work things out. The the muslim lady said she was harrassed alot, however she never said anything about til 3 yrs later. I am sorry, but this lady should have made sure she told some one about the on job harrassment as soon as it started. And she should have made sure she could have worn her scarf in the interview that would have saved them both alot of money and time. Disney should have won on this, however at this time and day ppl are afraid of Islam and the muslims. Thats why the courts ruled in her favor. If i sound racist , sorry. I am just tired of the muslims getting thier way because america is afraid of them

12:29AM PDT on Sep 19, 2012

Those racist remarks were without a doubt unacceptable. If Disney wants to remove a woman's religious rights, fine. But they can't keep trying to come across as tolerant and accepting.

12:05PM PDT on Sep 17, 2012

United States is not a muslim country, it's diversified and separates state and religion. Disney is not a democracy, it's an enterprise. If you want to wear your religion in public, chose another job. Most people that have a belief system, keep it private. Those that don't, keep shoving it in other people's faces. I don't care what you believe in, just keep it to yourself. I'm not interested in becoming a member!

9:00PM PDT on Sep 3, 2012

It's difficult to know if you're getting an accurate depiction of a legal case in these short synopses that are Care2 stories. Individual employees slurring Imane, is the mark of small, insensitive and racist minds, and employees should be reprimanded since this happened on company property and time. As to their sensibilities or a guest's sensibilities being offended by the hijab, that shouldn't matter to Disney or affect Imane's job -- that's their prejudice, shows their stupidity. One of the comments said that Disney has rules against ANYONE wearing religious symbols, so if true, this rule would have been explained to Imane BEFORE she was hired. She can't have it both ways, can't then begin wearing the hijab, a religious symbol. The rule would be the same for everyone -- wearing a cross, star of David, or hijab. Disney gave her several options for covering her hair. An employer has absolute right to make an employee wear a certain uniform that identifies her as a Disney employee. Imane seems confused over the idea of "freedom" -- with freedom, comes responsibility. She could have worn a head covering of Disney's choice. She can wear the hijab outside of work. She can get another job that allows Muslims to wear a hijab at work. Those are her freedom choices.

1:24PM PDT on Aug 28, 2012

Wende M. I agree with you until I read that she tried to wear scarfs that matched her outfit. Even wore Disney logo on it. What bothered me was her being called names. Kunta Kinte? Really? How racist and stupid can you get.

4:03AM PDT on Aug 28, 2012

I've never been sure why Muslim women wear head scarves. Is it because their religion insists that they should cover their hair? If the head scarves are only worn as a covering for the hair and not required by Islam, then any covering approved by Disney that complies with said requirement, should be acceptable. If that is the case, then Imane Boudlal is being unnecessarily sensitive in my opinion. Although, I do not in any way support the abuse she says has accompanied her during her employment by Disney.

And I have sent Syd H. a green star for a superb comment.

4:46AM PDT on Aug 26, 2012

Syd: Well spoken and right on.

12:04PM PDT on Aug 25, 2012

The Walt Disney Company, is not being islamophobic.
This woman is attempting to rob the company that generously employed her at a time when many thousands of honest people are unemployed.
When she accepted their offer of employment, she also accepted the companies dress code and expected standards of behaviour towards her employers and the customers of the company.
If she chose at a later date to wear clothing that was not part of the corporate identity, costume or uniform acceptable to her employer, then she must expect to be disciplined and dismissed. I have absolutely no sympathy with her.
Wearing the hijab, veil or burqa etc., is not a religious requirement for muslim women. The requirement is simply for them to dress modestly. It is not as if Disney was demanding that she paraded around all day naked or in a skimpy bikini or other sexually provocative clothing, but even if they had done so, she had the choice to refuse the job and walk away from her job interview. No one was forcing her at gun point to take the position being offered by the Walt Disney Company.
I sincerely hope that the courts use their common sense and dismiss Boudlal's spurious and fraudulent claims and make her pay the full court and legal costs plus punitive damages to the Walt Disney Company.

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Kristina Chew Kristina Chew teaches ancient Greek, Latin and Classics at Saint Peter's University in New Jersey.... more
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