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Disney employee allowed to wear hijab, may set precedent for others

Two women in hijab at a Southern California picnic, June 2008
Two women in hijab at a Southern California picnic, June 2008
Photo by TK/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A decision by Disney to allow a female Muslim intern to wear a traditional religious head scarf, or hijab, at work could set a precedent for other Disney employees who make an argument to wear the head scarves as part of their work uniform.

According to the greater Los Angeles office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a national Islamic civil liberties organization, the decision involved a young woman from the Chicago area who had interviewed by phone for an internship job as a Disney vacation planner in Anaheim.

In a press release today, CAIR-LA stated that when the unidentified intern arrived in California, she was informed by her new employer that she would have to take a different position with limited guest interaction, a stockroom job, while a customized uniform was created for her. The wait for a customized uniform was five months, according to CAIR-LA, the length of her internship.

Disney relented after the intern sought legal help from the organization and complained, arguing that she had moved away from her family and paid for housing and airfare for the specific position she was hired to.

The company has allowed her to work in the vacation planner role; a Disney spokeswoman told the Los Angeles Times that the intern is able to wear a fitted blue head scarf with "a beret-style hat" over it.

"We hope that this is a good sign, and we strongly urge Disney and hope that Disney actually comes up with a policy to allow Muslim wear the head scarf as part of their uniform," said Munira Syeda, a spokeswoman for CAIR-LA, by phone today.

According to CAIR, the organization has received complaints from Muslim women over the years who haven’t been allowed to hold “front-stage” jobs with the company because of their head scarves.

Last month, Moroccan immigrant Imane Boudial filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging that she was not allowed to wear her hijab while on the job, at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel. Her case is still pending.