A hat, bow-tie bonnet, or beret can resolve a dispute between Disneyland and a Muslim woman but not with another when both refused to take off their Muslim headscarves and abide by the company’s employee costume regulations.
Imane Boudlal, a hostess at Storyteller’s Restaurant in the Disney Grand Californian Hotel, claims through her union representative, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), that she remains out of work.
On August 24, Boudlal’s union issued a statement stating she had been “suspended" without pay.
Not accepting Disneyland’s option
According to Suzi Brown, Disney Director Media Relations said that Boudlal was not suspended, and even though she is not being scheduled for work, she remains a full-time employee.
Brown also said that Boudlal could return to work when she is ready to accept the costume option Disney offered her, or a back office position which would be out of guest view.
“We have made every attempt to provide Ms. Boudlal with several different costuming options that we believe would accommodate her religious beliefs and meet our costuming guidelines,” she added.
“We also offered her four different roles that would allow her to wear her own hijab. She’s chosen to reject all the options presented to her.”
Noor Abdallah, 22 was rejected to work as a vacation planner at a Disnelyland Resort Esplanade’s ticket booth for wearing the hijab, but after declining to take another job away from the public eye, Disneyland designed a headscarf and custom suitable for a hijab-wearing woman, thereby reaching an agreement.
The only difference between the two cases was that one of the two women accepted Disney’s costume offer and the other did not, said Brown.
Boudlal’s alternative costume which she did not accept, is more of a difficult wear to accept. The suggested alternative reflects the rustic, turn-of-the-century Craftsman themes relating to the restaurant and the hotel she works for, while Abdallah’s costume is more generic, and more accommodating to the employee.
Boudlal filing a complaint
Boudlal filed a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Commission and her case is still open.
Brown said that Boudlal could return to work when she is ready to accept the costume option Disney offered her, or a back office position which would be out of guest view.
According to Ameena Qazi, CAIR-LA Staff Attorney and Deputy Executive Director, who is representing both women said that both cases are similar because Disney’s first option for accommodation was to offer the women jobs which were out of guest view, and less desirable from the employee’s perspective.
Also, CAIR-LA Executive Director Hussam Ayloush last week sent a letter to Disney executives advocating a change in Disney's Look Policy, and to follow with the company's diversity initiatives by allowing qualified Muslim women who wear the hijab to be recruited and retained as Disney employees.
“This case clearly demonstrates that accommodation of Muslim women's requests to wear the headscarf is possible in "front-stage" positions or positions with significant guest interaction . . . I strongly urge Disney to institutionalize a process for Muslim women, or others who make similar religious accommodation requests, to be accommodated in these front-stage positions in a timely and good faith manner,” Ayloush said in a CAIR statement
But Brown said that Disney did not do anything special in the case of Noor Abdallah.
“Walt Disney Parks and Resorts has a long history of accommodating a variety of religious requests from cast members of all faiths —with more than 200 accommodations made over the last three years and this instance was no different.”