A Disney hotel employee who was told she cannot wear a hijab in her job as a restaurant hostess was suspended without pay Tuesday. She rejected the company's latest attempt to reach a compromise solution, union officials said.
Disney officials, however, denied they have suspended Imane Boudlal, who lodged a complaint last week with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Boudlal's employers have left the decision of returning to work up to her, according to Disneyland spokeswoman Suzi Brown.
"Over the last four days, we have made every attempt to provide Ms. Boudlal with several different costuming options, which we believe would accommodate her religious beliefs and meet our costuming guidelines," Brown said. "We also offered her four different roles that would allow her to wear her own hijab. She's chosen to reject over and over again all the options presented to her."
Boudlal has worked at the Grand Californian hotel's Storytellers restaurant for more than two years. The hotel's theme is turn-of-the-century California, and Disney strives to make the costumes match the theme, Brown said.
According to her union representatives, Boudlal has been turned away from work eight times because she wants to wear a hijab and has rejected Disney's alternative headgear suggestions.
"She's been going in hoping to work it out, but all the options have been ridiculous," said Leigh Shelton, a spokeswoman for Unite Here Local 11.
The latest costume suggestion was an oversized chef's hat, according to Shelton, who said the other alternative was to let Boudlal wear the traditional hijab but work out of sight of customers in another job.
"I do not want to wear ridiculous hats that draw more attention to me, while hiding that I'm Muslim," Boudlal said in a union-issued statement. "I hope Disney will stop making a joke of my religion and accept me for who I am."
Boudlal said in a telephone interview Monday that she would accept wearing some sort of head scarf, even one with a Disney logo.
"That's fine, just something decent and simple," Boudlal said.
The point of the hijab is modesty, and being the only one among her co- workers wearing a hat would draw unwanted attention to her, she said.
"I don't keep rejecting (Disney's suggestions) for no reason," Boudlal said. "The problem is they don't want an Islamic woman working at Disney."
Disney officials have denied discriminating against Boudlal and suggested that Unite Here Local 11 leaders are publicizing her case because the union's workers have been involved in a contract dispute for more than two years.
The company and the union have been battling over how much workers should contribute to their health plan, among other issues.
Copyright Associated Press / NBC Southern California