|By Raja Abdulrahim, Los
Angeles TimesMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
August 19, 2010 - A Muslim woman who works as a hostess at a
Disney-owned restaurant filed a discrimination complaint against the
entertainment giant Wednesday, saying they have repeatedly sent her
home without pay for refusing to remove her headscarf at work.
Imane Boudlal said she has worked as a hostess at Storyteller's
Café in Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa for two years
and began wearing her hijab Sunday but was told she would have to
remove it or take a job working out of public view.
On Wednesday, shortly after filing a complaint with the U.S. Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission, Boudlal made her fourth attempt of
the week — the first with videographers, photographers and reporters in
tow — to begin her afternoon shift at the resort-district restaurant,
which features a Chip 'n' Dale theme.
Boudlal said she was again told to take off her hijab, the headscarf
some Muslim women wear. Boudlal refused and walked out of the hotel,
flanked by chanting supporters.
"I've been sent home," she said. "I thought maybe today is my lucky day
because I have my friends, my supporters."
Disney officials said Boudlal has never been denied the opportunity to
"She's been allowed to work," said Disneyland spokeswoman Suzi Brown.
"We've given her the opportunity to work in a backstage role the last
several shifts that she's come in."
One backstage role the company offered was a room service cashier, an
interim solution until a permanent one could be found, Brown said.
"Don't put me in the back," Boudlal retorted Wednesday, dressed in her
work uniform of camp-style green slacks, orange vest and long-sleeved
white shirt in addition to her white hijab.
Boudlal, who is from Morocco and recently became a U.S. citizen, said
she approached her employer in June about wanting to wear the hijab on
the job. She was told the request would have to be approved by the
corporate office. When she followed up, she said, she was told the
request was still under review.
Last week she was taken to the costume department to look for possible
alternatives — a hat was suggested — and she was told she could not
wear her own hijab, said Ameena Qazi, staff attorney for the Council on
American-Islamic Relations, which is representing Boudlal.
"We knew Disney is very sensitive to their public image so we said, 'Go
public,' " said Leigh Shelton, a spokeswoman with Unite Here Local 11,
the union that represents Boudlal.
Brown said the hijab would be a departure from the costume policy for
Boudlal's role as hostess.
"It has to do with the costume, every role at Disneyland Resort has a
specific costume," Brown said, adding that a number of employees wear
religious clothing and work behind the scenes. She could not recall
whether there were any who worked directly with guests.
Disneyland is working diligently to accommodate her request, Brown said.
The news conference, held on a street corner in front of the hotel
where voices were occasionally drowned out by passing traffic as little
girls in princess dresses walked by, was not without its references to
the "Happiest Place on Earth."
"My advice to Disney company … take a ride on one of your own rides, a
little thing called 'It's a Small World,' which celebrates human
diversity," Qazi said. "Imane is just celebrating that same diversity."
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