Disneyland should allow employees to wear religious attire while at work

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Arguing for the government: Cassandra Thieme

When Disneyland forced employee Imane Boudlal to remove her hijab while at work, they committed discrimination—our long-standing fight since settlement here in America. Many settlers came to America in order to escape religious persecution and live in a free country where they could exercise their right to practice their religions as they pleased. A woman who arrives to work should not be sent home because of her religious wear.

Courtesy of MCT

A hijab may be known as a headscarf to many, but it is not that simple. It is not merely a piece of linen that cloaks one’s head. A hijab has a specific purpose steeped in culture and traditional values. It is a symbol of respect, modesty, morality and privacy, and it has deep historical and religious associations.

The Quran (24:30) states, “Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that will make for greater purity for them; and Allah is well acquainted with all that they do.”A hijab is worn with pride and honor for all of the values it represents.

Disney’s proposed resolutions—suggesting Boudlal move to a location where she will be hidden away from the public, or wear a headscarf that complies with “The Disney Look”—are a dehumanizing joke. A Disney head covering converts a hijab from a sacred religious article into merely part of a costume.

No one in America should be turned away from work because of his or her religious practices. Disneyland needs to obey our laws and grant religious freedom to its employees. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 provides an example of employment discrimination: “A Jewish instructor for a county job training program is told that he may not wear his yarmulke while teaching classes.”

Title VII states, “This law makes it illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin or sex.”

Freedom should be granted to all employees in the United States. Nobody’s position at work or religious attire should have to be altered to better suit an employer’s wish, or to better fit a look the employer would like to achieve. America is a diverse nation with a diverse workforce, and the nation’s hard-working citizens should be protected by our government and laws when discrimination forces them to be denied employment.

Arguing for the opposition: James Mauldin

Many people know Disneyland in Anaheim as “the happiest place on earth,” but for Imane Boudlal, that is far from the truth. The L.A. Times reported that Boudlal, a follower of Islam and an employee of Disneyland’s Storyteller’s Cafe for two years, is filing a religious discrimination lawsuit against the theme park on the basis that she is being denied permission to wear her hijab during work hours.

This lawsuit is unjustified. Disneyland did not act beyond its legal limitations by sending Boudlal home without pay for refusing to remove her hijab.

Disneyland is well known for having a strict employee dress code. This policy, called “The Disney Look,” was introduced along with the park’s opening in 1955.  According to Disneyland, this policy must be understood and agreed to prior to employment. The “Disney Look” employee dress code states, “The only hats and sun visors that may be worn are those issued by Costuming as part of the costume.”

Boudlal said she has shown up to work multiple times while wearing her hijab and was subsequently asked by her supervisors to remove it due to it being in violation of the dress code. Failing to do this, Boudlal’s supervisors have sent her home multiple times due to costume violations. As stated in “The Disney Look,” the reason for such a rigid dress code is to help employees add to the pleasing and “magical” atmosphere within the park so guests can better enjoy their visit.

According to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, an individual cannot be fired from a job on the basis of religion. In an article by Fox News, Disneyland spokeswoman Suzi Brown said Disneyland has made no decision to fire Boudlal over the issue. Brown explains Disneyland is currently in the process of negotiating with her to resolve the problem in one of two ways. One proposed idea is for the costuming department to issue Boudlal a specially designed head covering which complies with the dress code. Disneyland is also offering Boudlal a “behind the scenes” position at the park. These positions have less-stringent dress codes and will allow Boudlal to continue to wear her hijab. No action that Disenyland has taken to enforce their dress code has in any way gone beyond the confines of the law.

Some may say this issue is one of religion and that Disneyland stepped beyond its limits. This conflict is not fueled by religious intolerance, but by a company simply trying to enforce a dress code. If we take a look at the course of action Disneyland is applying to this situation, we will see that Disneyland is attempting to work out a solution that is mutually acceptable to both parties and is in no way overstepping its legal boundaries.

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