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Bryant Whitten, LLP

Muslim woman files suit, says Disney discriminated against her

A former Disneyland restaurant employee filed a federal employment discrimination lawsuit against The Walt Disney Company based on religious discrimination and harassment. The 28-year-old Muslim employee, who is a naturalized U.S. citizen, said Disney fired her because she wanted to wear a hijab to work. A hijab is a head scarf worn by Muslim women.

The employee worked as a hostess at Storytellers Café at Disney's California Adventure in Anaheim, California. She asked Disney whether she could wear a hijab at work. She offered to wear one that matched her uniform or showed the Disney logo.

Disney managers said no, according to the suit, saying that a wearing a hijab would violate the company's "look" policy for its employees and negatively affect the dining experience for its patrons. Instead, Disney gave the employee the option of working in an area away from public view. When she refused, Disney fired her.

The lawsuit contends that Disney loosely enforces its "look" policy. Disney allows Christian employees to wear crosses and other religious insignia. Disney's policy prohibits visible tattoos, but other employees have been sporting them, the woman says. Co-workers also harassed the employee by calling her ethnic and religious slurs, the lawsuit alleges. The employee reported the slurs to managers who did nothing to stop it.

In her lawsuit, the employee asserted claims for punitive damages and an injunctive order to stop Disney from prohibiting Muslims from wearing hijabs. The employee also requested an order requiring Disney to educate its employees about workplace discrimination.

Source: Business Insurance, "Muslim woman charges Disney with religious discrimination," Judy Greenwald, Aug. 14, 2012

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