A former Muslim employee of the Walt Disney Co. has filed a lawsuit against Disney for religious discrimination. The former employee, Imane Boudlal, is a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Morocco. According to her lawsuit, while she worked at the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa’s Storyteller’s Café, co-workers harassed her by calling her offensive names such as “terrorist” and “camel;” and telling her that she “spoke the terrorist language” and was “trained to make bombs.” She says that management took no action after she complained about these offensive comments.
Ms. Bouldal also alleges that Disney management failed to reasonably accommodate her religious beliefs. According to the lawsuit, after working at the restaurant for a time, Ms. Boudlal asked for permission to wear a hijab, a traditional Muslim head covering. She wanted to start to wear her hijab at work because her religion required her to wear it and also the Muslim holy month of Ramadan was about to begin. Disney refused to let her wear her hijab because it claimed that the hijab conflicted with its “look” policy even though it allegedly allowed other employees at the restaurant to come to work with visibly displayed tattoos, crosses, and other religious insignia. As a compromise, Ms. Boudlal offered to wear a hijab that matched the color of her uniform and to put a Disney logo on it but management still refused. Ultimately, Disney management would only let her wear her hijab at work if she worked in the back of the restaurant where no customers would interact with her or if she wore an oversized hat over it. When Ms. Boudlal said that she found the options that Disney management offered humiliating and inconsistent with her religion, Disney fired her.
Maine and federal law both prohibit harassment based on an employee’s religion and require employers to reasonably accommodate employees’ religious beliefs. If you have experienced religious discrimination similar to Ms. Bouldal, you should seek advice from an experienced employment lawyer.