Complaint: Religious Discrimination at Disney

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on August 24, 2010 12:22 PM

The House the Mouse built is currently up to its ears in controversy. Last week it was reported the Disney Corporation would not allow one of its workers to wear her hijab (head scarf) while working with the public at its StoryTellers Cafe. Small world indeed.

According to the Associated Press, Disney employee Imane Boudlal, 26, filed a complaint regarding the alleged religious discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. According to Boudlal, when she wore her hijab to work, she was told by her supervisor to remove it, work out of the public eye or go home. She opted to leave work several days running.

According to Disney reps, the company has a policy against discrimination, so keeping the Disney employee out of the public eye was not an act of prejudice, it was a costuming issue. "Typically, somebody in an on-stage position like hers wouldn't wear something like that, that's not part of the costume," Disneyland spokeswoman Suzi Brown told the AP. "We were trying to accommodate her with a backstage position that would allow her to work. We gave her a couple of different options and she chose not to take those and to go home."

A report on August 23 by the LA Weekly updates the story. According to the paper, Boudlal has been presented with a costuming alternative which appears to be a scarf with a some sort of bowler hat attached. According to Disney, Boudlal has rejected all of the alternatives she has been offered. In an additional report, Boudlal told the AP she found the hat/scarf combo 'embarrassing and makes a joke of her religion.'

If you would like to blame a cartoon character for this messy situation, you may point a finger at Uncle Sam. According to the AP, Boudlal, who was born in Morocco, is applying for citizenship. She only realized she had a right to expect her employers would reasonably accommodate her religious beliefs or practices, unless doing so would cause the company undue hardship, when she began studying for her citizenship exam this past June. Those civil rights can really get in the way of a good costume.

Negotiations between Disney and Boudlal continue. Meanwhile, please sing along:

theres so much that we share
that its time we're aware
its a small world after all

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