Working at Walt Disney Co. was no fairy tale for Imane Boudlal, a Muslim woman who on Monday filed suit against for former employer on charges of harassment and religious discrimination, including not being allowed to openly wear her headscarf.
Boudlal was reportedly fired from the company two years ago but on August 8 she got a “notice of right-to-sue” from the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in response to her 2010 complaint, enabling her to file Boudlal v. Disney on Monday, said Reuters.
The culprit in the whole hijab affair is, oddly, the US citizenship exam. The 28-year-old Morrocan, who became a US citizen in June 2010, told Los Angeles' KTLA that she didn't know she was legally entitled to work while wearing her headscarf, an item commonly worn as a sign of modesty by observant Muslim women, until she started studying for the citizenship test.
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So according to her legal complaint, one fine day, after working for a couple of years as hostess at Storytellers Cafe at California's Disneyland, she asked managers if she could wear the headscarf, or hijab, while on shift, reported Reuters.
Um, no, was the reported retort. Or, actually, yes, but only if she worked out of site of customers (a demotion to dishwasher?) or wear what is truly a silly-looking hat on top of her scarf (see it here). Even if, Boudlal reportedly asked, the headscarf had a Disney logo on it? Or matched company colors? Nope, that's not the Disney "look," Reuters said Boudlal was told, according to her lawsuit.
"The hat makes a joke of my religion and draws even more attention to me," Boudlal told KTLA. She refused to wear it or continue her employment in hiding, resulting in her dismissal, Reuters cited her complaint as stating.
"Disneyland calls itself the happiest place on earth, but I faced harassment as soon as I started working there" which "only got worse when I decided to wear a hijab," Boudlal said in a statement released by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California representing her case, said Reuters.
Boudlal's attorneys told the LA Times that Boudlal was repeatedly taunted by coworkers who reportedly called her a "terrorist," "camel" and "Kunta Kinte," referring to the slave character in Alex Haley's "Roots."
Her lawyers said she filed verbal and written complaints with her superiors but got no results, according to the LA Times.
Disney declined to comment on the case on Monday, but it's not the company's first run-in with the hijab. They settled a similar incident involving 22-year-old Muslim Disney intern Noor Abdallah in 2010 by way of a scarf-topping beret-style hat, according to The New York Daily News.