It’s not that Disney is refusing her a job or a living wage because she is a Muslim. Rather, it is clear from this story that Imane Boudlal wants to be seen wearing a hijab and wants Disneyland to be her platform for doing so; thus, Disney’s attempts to compromise and offer her other positions and alternative costuming options have been non-starters.
Disney is in the entertainment business. Costumes and standards of appearance are part of maintaining the experience that Disneyland sells, and uniforms are called “uniforms” for a reason. But Boudlal is bent on injecting her own social engineering agenda into Disney’s small, small world, and believes it trumps the basic principle that one is not entitled to a job whose requirements one cannot fulfill.
A Muslim woman who sued Disney last week for refusing to let her wear a religious headscarf at her job as a Disneyland Resort restaurant hostess says she has been suspended without pay for turning down the company’s alternatives – including a large hat and bow-tie bonnet she called “humiliating” and “embarrassing.”
Nothing new there: company uniforms tend to be unflattering in some way to just about everyone.
According to her union, Unite Here Local 11, Imane Boudlal was suspended Tuesday after rejecting both a Disney-made hijab, or headscarf, and offers of four “backstage” jobs out of the public eye.
But Disneyland spokeswoman Suzi Brown said that while the company had not scheduled Boudlal for future work hours, Boudlal’s characterization was inaccurate.
“Over the last four days we have made every attempt to provide Ms. Boudhal with several different costuming options which we believe would accommodate her religious beliefs and meet our costuming guidelines,” said Brown in a prepared statement.
“We also offered her four roles” – three phone-based positions and one bakery job, all of which paid at least as much as what she was making as a hostess at the Grand Californian Hotel – “that would allow her to wear her own hijab,” the statement added. “She’s chosen to reject over and over again all the options presented to her.”
Disney’s strict dress code prohibits “cast members,” or employees who meet the public, from wearing religious items. But the company has worked to accommodate employees’ concerns by allowing such modifications as longer sleeves and skirts instead of pants. In 2004, Disney World in Florida was sued by a female Muslim employee who wanted to wear a headscarf to work. The case was settled out of court and the terms were confidential.
Boudlal, a U.S. citizen who was born in Morocco, has been employed at the Western-themed Storyteller’s Cafe for more than two years. She said that while she has worn a headscarf off the job for the past year, she decided she had the right to wear her hijab to work after studying for her citizenship exam in June and reading a Disney manual that mentioned an accommodation policy for religious beliefs.
She said she had requested a Disney-made headscarf more than two months ago, and when she arrived at the restaurant Aug. 15 wearing her own, she was told to remove it or go home. She filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last Wednesday.
“I’m not a character in a role, I just wear a uniform,” said Boudlal, who added that she has been willing to accept a “simple and decent” Disney alternative but is unwilling to move to a behind-the-scenes job “because I’d feel humiliated.”
“The point is, they don’t want anyone to look Muslim or different,” she said.
That’s why they call it a “uniform.” So people don’t look different, or somehow more privileged or special than the next worker.