Muslim Woman Sues Disney Over Discrimination

The Walt Disney Studios, the headquarters of T...

A federal discrimination suit was filed earlier this month against the Walt Disney Company by the American Civil Liberties Union claiming that a Muslim woman was harassed and unfairly removed from her job after a dispute over her head scarf. 

Imane Boudlal, 28, has filed suit in the United States District Court in Los Angeles against the Walk Disney Company. The focus of the suit involves Ms. Boudlal’s, decision to wear a scarf, or hijab, and the subsequent employment alternatives Disney offered her. After two years of working in her position, Ms. Boudlal asked permission to wear a hijab while at work. She said she offered to wear a scarf that corresponded to the colors of her uniform, or to wear a scarf featuring the Disney logo. The company, citing wardrobe policies intended to suit a theme, offered Ms. Boudlal various hats in line with the restaurant’s early 1900s theme to wear over the hijab. 

The suit also says that Ms. Boudlal was called names like “terrorist” and “camel” during her two years working at the Storytellers Cafe at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California. According to the complaint, Ms. Boudlal reported the harassment in writing to four different managers and none took action.

As an alternative to being unable to wear her hijab, or to wearing Disney approved hats in place of her hijab, Ms. Boudlal was told that she could work “backstage”, out of public view. If working out of public view, Ms. Boudlal could wear the head scarf as she pleased. According to the suit, Ms. Boudlal “refused, explaining that she found these options humiliating and an infringement of her religious beliefs.” Consequently, Disney “removed her from the cafe’s schedule”. Ms. Boudlal has not been scheduled to work since August 21, 2010. 

The lawsuit seeks punitive damages and an order that states Disney may not prohibit employees from wearing hijabs. Further, it asks that Disney be ordered to deliver anti-harassment training to employees

Those who are victims of discrimination in the workplace, and employers who have claims against them, need to make sure they have the proper information and are following all laws to protect themselves from litigation.  Don Ho, LLP, handles employment law in Southern California for both employers and employees, providing a unique perspective on every type of employment law matter. 

This article will be updated as information becomes available. 

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