A former hostess at a Disneyland restaurant is suing Disney claiming the theme park would not allow her to serve customers while wearing her Muslim head scarf.
In a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles on Monday, Imane Boudlal alleges that when she turned up to work wearing her hijab she was told to remove it, work ‘backstage’ out of sight of customers or go home.
The dispute dates back to 2010 when Boudlal, who worked at the Storyteller Café in Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel, learnt from her US citizenship exam that she could wear her hijab to work.
Having worked at the restaurant for two-and-a-half years, she then started wearing her hijab to work.
However, whenever she did she was told to remove it, work away from customers or was sent home, the suit claims.
She was sent home at least seven times without pay for wearing the headscarf to work, reported the OC Weekly.
Boudlal’s managers offered her a bow-tie bonnet covered with a hat as a compromise but she refused saying that the hat made a ‘joke’ of both her and her religion.
After refusing to wear the bonnet and turning down the ‘backstage’ work, Boudlal was suspended.
She filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2010 and last week received a notice of right to sue.
Boudlal’s attorneys also claim that she was taunted the entire time she worked there by her colleagues, who called her ‘terrorist,’ ‘camel’ and ‘Kunta Kinte,’ the name of a slave in Alex Haley’s novel, Roots.
Boudlal told her managers about the abuse both orally and in writing, but the managers did nothing, her attorneys told the Los Angeles Times.
Boudlal is being represented by her union, UNITE HERE Local 11, which has been in a bitter fight for years with Disneyland over an expired contract for hotel workers.
Back in 2010, a Disney representative accused the union of distorting the facts in Boudlal’s case to distract from the key issues in the contract fight.
‘I don’t understand why I cannot wear my white scarf that already matches my restaurant uniform, and be left to do my job,’ she said to the OC Weekly. ‘My scarf doesn’t do anything to harm Disney or the guests.’
This is not the first time that a Disney employee has insisted on wearing the hijab to work.
In 2010, Noor Abdallah, then a 22-year-old intern from Chicago, agreed to wear a specially customised Disney-made bonnet as a compromise.