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Former Disney worker expected to sue over head scarf dispute

Former Disney worker expected to sue over head scarf dispute
Imane Boudlal worked as a hostess at the Storyteller’s Restaurant in Disneyland’s Grand Californian Hotel. She filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2010 and received a “notice of right-to-sue” from the agency Aug. 8, opening the door for litigation.
(Mark Boster, Los Angeles Times)

A former Disney employee is expected to announce Monday a federal lawsuit against the entertainment giant, saying she was harassed and unfairly removed from her hostess job after refusing to remove her head scarf while at work.

Imane Boudlal, who is Muslim, said she had worked at Storyteller’s Cafe in Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa in Anaheim for two years when she began wearing her hijab to work in August 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.

Boudlal, now 28, refused. She has not worked at Disney since Aug. 21, 2010, said Mark Rosenbaum, an attorney from the ACLU of Southern California who is representing Boudlal.

She filed a complaint with theU.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commissionin 2010 and received a “notice of right-to-sue” from the agency Aug. 8, opening the door for litigation. She is expected to reveal her legal plans Monday morning with her attorneys at the ACLU’s Los Angeles office.

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Boudlal’s attorneys also said their Moroccan-born client was repeatedly harassed by her co-workers from the beginning of her employment, receiving insults such as “terrorist,” “camel” and “Kunta Kinte,” the name of a slave in Alex Haley’s 1976 novel, “Roots.” Boudlal reported the incidents to her managers orally and in writing, Rosenbaum said, with no results.

“Walt Disney Parks and Resorts has a long history of accommodating a variety of religious requests from cast members of all faiths,” said Suzi Brown, a Disney spokeswoman. “However, because we have not seen the lawsuit, we cannot comment specifically about this situation at this time.”

Shortly after Boudlal’s dispute with the company went public in 2010, another Muslim woman said she was also told she would have to work out of sight if she chose to wear a hijab to work. Disney officials said they were able to reach a compromise with Noor Abdallah, then a 22-year-old intern from Chicago, and allowed her to wear a fitted blue scarf topped by a beret-style hat.

kate.mather@latimes.com


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