Muslim Files EEOC Discrimination Complaint Over Disney's Costume Policy--in Order to Wear Hijab

August 26, 2010

In this week's employment news that our Anaheim employment lawyers have been following, a Disneyland hotel restaurant hostess in Anaheim, California was not allowed to wear her hijab, or headdress, to work and rejected Disney's suggestion that she wear a revised costume including a head-covering with a hat that better fit the restaurant's image.

Our Orange County employment lawyers have been interested in this case, as we have reported in our blog about lawsuits involving the wearing of hijabs in the workplace before.

According to the news reports, after Disney offered Imane Boudlal a proposal on how to make her hijab to fit Disney's image with a scarf and a hat, Boudlal filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging religious discrimination.

Boudlal, 26, has reportedly worked at the Storytellers restaurant at the Grand Californian hotel for over two years, and this was the seventh time she was sent home from work without compensation because she would not take off her hijab while working. Boudlal claimed that the proposed costume alterations that Disney presented included a scarf with a hat that made fun of her and her religion. Boudlal claims that the point of the hijab is modesty, and a hat would only draw more attention to herself.

According to a Disney employment handbook that explains the company's policies on costuming and dress code, when an employee is in the public area, they are "on stage." The Disney Grand Californian Hotel, is reportedly based on Craftsman theme from the turn-of-the-century, and the hotel employees are expected to play look and play their role accordingly. All employees reportedly must have their appearance inspected before they go to work in the public eye.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that, discrimination based on religion is prohibited, and an employee's religious garment should be accommodated. The EEOC states that no employee should have to make the choice between their religious beliefs and their job. An employer must lawfully accommodate an employee's religious practices and sincere beliefs, such as religious attire and a head scarf, unless it causes undue hardship for the company, and the operation of its business.

Suzi Brown, Disneyland spokeswoman claimed that Disney did not discriminate against Boudlal, and in fact offered her four different roles to transition into that would allow her to continue wearing her hijab, and that met their costuming and public appearance guidelines. Disney felt they provided an accommodation for her religious beliefs. Brown alleges Boudlal has rejected all of the options that Disney has presented.

Boudlal claims that she would accept wearing a head scarf from Disney, even with the Disney logo, but that the problem isn't the costume--Boudlal thinks Disney doesn't want an Islamic woman working for them. Boudlal just wants to get back to work wearing her hijab.

Muslim Worker Rejects Disney's Compromise Proposal, myFOXla.com, August 23, 2010

26-Year-Old Anaheim Muslim Woman Fights Disneyland on Headscarf - Saturday's Battle, OC180NEWS.com, August 21, 2010

Related Web Resources:

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, (EEOC): Religious Discrimination

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, (EEOC)