A Muslim woman who works as a hostess at a Disneyland restaurant alleges her employer sent her home without pay after she refused to remove her head covering in front of customers.
Imane Boudlal has worked at the Magic Kingdom for two and a half years. Every time she clocks in, she removes her headscarf, known as a hijab. But when she became a United States citizen two months ago, she decided she should exercise her religious freedom by wearing her Muslim head covering at work.
"I'm not here to scare anybody. I'm just here to wear my headscarf and work and keep my job. I don't want to be in the back. I'm a human being. I have feelings," said the Anaheim woman.
Disney officials offered the 26-year-old a job in a backroom bakery at the Storyteller's Cafe inside the Grand California Hotel. They told her if she works as a hostess, she is "on stage" and must follow a dress code like other front-line employees.
Union officials say Boudlal is being discriminated against.
"What Disney is doing by not allowing Imane to wear her hijab is immoral," said Ada Briceno of Unite Here, Local 11.
But according to a statement from Disney, "The Company values diversity and has a long-standing policy against discrimination of any kind. Unfortunately, this is yet another attempt by Local 11 to distort the facts and distract from the real issue that their members have been without a contract for two and a half years."
On Wednesday, Boudlal was sent home for a fourth time for refusing to remove her hijab.
"Right now, that's a costumed position that doesn't include a headscarf like that, so we were working with her on some accommodations that would allow her to be able to work on stage," said Disney spokeswoman Suzi Brown.
Boudlal says she wants to keep working at the happiest place on earth, so she will keep showing up for work.
"You can take whatever you want from me: my work, my job, my car, my house, whatever you want. But you will never take who I am: my culture, my religion -- no way," she said.