A U.S. Muslim woman has filed a lawsuit this week against her former employer Walt Disney Corp. after claiming that she was taunted by her colleagues and called a “terrorist” and a “camel” while she worked at Disneyland during 2010.
Imane Boudlal, a Moroccan-born Muslim and naturalized U.S. citizen, said he co-workers had also said she was “someone who learned how to make bombs at her mosque,” the LA Times reported on Monday.
Alleging that she unfairly lost her job at Disney and was harassed for her religious beliefs, Boudlal began wearing a hijab during 2010, two years after she had been working at a Disney restaurant in Anaheim.
In 2010, “Boudlal said she was told wearing her scarf was a violation of company policy, and she would either have to remove it, cover it with a hat or take a job working out of public sight,” the LA Times reported.
Disney park employees who work with the public are disallowed from having visible tattoos or jewelry, including religious symbols, and men cannot wear earrings, according to the Washington Post.
"It's been hard," Boudlal told the newspaper. "I thought it was just a matter of complaining and a few days, and it wouldn't affect my life, but it turns out … nothing has been done."
Speaking before the lawsuit was filed, Disney spokeswoman Suzi Brown said that the company had presented Boudal with “multiple options to accommodate her religious beliefs,” and offered her other roles that would allow her to wear her own headscarf but Boudlal “rejected all of our efforts and has since refused to come to work,” Brown told the newspaper.
But an attorney representing Boudlal has said that his client was not scheduled to work at the cafe since Aug. 21, 2010.
"I think her experience is not unlike that of many Muslims," he told the newspaper. "America was invented based on our commitment to religious freedom and that got lost or shredded after 9/11." The lawsuit, he said, "is an attempt to recapture this."
"If you're a Muslim, it's not the happiest place on Earth,” the attorney told the LA Times, in reference to Disneyland.
After additional meetings with Disney, the LA Times reported, Boudlal filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
“The agency awarded Boudlal a notice of right to sue earlier this month, opening the door for litigation,” the newspaper stated.
The American Civil Liberties Union’s lawsuit, on behalf of Boudlal, now seeks damages and harassment and discrimination training for Disney employees.
The Moroccan-American Boudlal, now 28, also seeks a court order to force Disney to allow Muslim employees to wear headscarves in public roles without a hat or other cover.
This is not the first time Disney has faced a hijab conflict. Another Muslim female employee publicly complained in 2010 that she was told she’d have to work out in another role at Disney if she wanted to wear her hijab. Instead, Disney allowed her to wear a beret-style hat with a fitted scarf underneath.