Disney Employee Sues over Hijab Discipline

Posted August 23, 2010 in Labor and Employment by Arthur Buono

Disney’s recent concessions to women’s attire apparently don’t extend to Muslim headdress. An employee who was disciplined for wearing a hijab to work has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She says Disney is discriminating against her on religious grounds.

  • Muslim hostess sues Disney over right to wear customary head scarf
  • Disney claims the scarf clashes with hostess’ costume, offers other position
  • EEOC guidance suggests Disney might be wrong


Disney Calls Hijab Out of Costume

Imane Boudlal works as a hostess at the resort. She asked management a couple of months ago if she could wear the traditional Muslim headdress. They offered to have her work in a less public role. She prefers to remain customer-facing. Disney says the hijab clashes with her hostess costume, and won’t budge on that point. Boudlal brought things to a head last week by showing up four days wearing the hijab. She was sent home without pay.

Federal laws prohibit religious discrimination in the workplace. Employers must make reasonable accomodation for things like religious dress. Disney has said the hijab doesn’t mesh with the hostess’ costume, so it’s unreasonable for her to wear it. They’ve also said they’d let the hostess wear her hijab at a different job. The EEOC has a Q&A about a receptionist who wears a hijab. The EEOC says making her remove it would violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Will Disney’s costume defense make a difference? We’ll see.

The EEOC handles claims of employment discrimination. It is the lead federal agency for enforcement of civil rights laws in the workplace. States also have their own employment discrimination agencies. These can be your first point of contact for most workplace discrimination problems. You must file an EEOC claim within 180 days after the discrimination. Filing an EEOC claim is mandatory. You will not be able to sue or recover anything for your harm if you don’t.

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