Is Disneyland’s Dress Code Offensive?

In a word, no.

In case you haven’t heard, Imane Boudlal, a 26-year-old Disneyland restaurant employee has filed a complaint against Disney for religious discrimination. {LA Times}

The problem stems from the fact that Boudlal wants to wear a hijab – a scarf covering the hair and neck that some Muslim women choose to wear, while working. When hired, Boudlal did not wear the hijab, but later made the decision to wear it.

Disneyland, which has a long history of strict dress codes for employees, often called “cast members,” has offered Boudlal a position “backstage,” where costumes and uniforms aren’t as restrictive, and later a costume which had been modified to be more conservative. The costume included a higher neckline shirt, and a hat to cover her hair.

Disney spokeswoman Suzi Brown explains:

“We met with Ms. Boudlal on Saturday and presented her with several options. She asked that the costume be altered. Those alterations were made and a modified costume was presented to her that meets our costuming guidelines and which we believe provides an accommodation of her religious beliefs. We also provided four different roles that she could transition to that would allow her to wear her own hijab. She has twice chosen to reject all of the options that we’ve presented.” {LA Weekly}

Boudal responded that “the hat makes a joke of me and my religion, and draws even more attention to me. It’s unacceptable. They don’t want me to look Muslim. They just don’t want the head covering to look like a hijab.” {Styleite}

Perhaps they don’t, but when is the last time an on the clock Disney employee “looked” Jewish (perhaps through wearing a yarmulke) or “looked” Sikh (perhaps through wearing a turban) when it wasn’t part of the uniform? Considering the fact that publicly facing Disney theme park workers often have to wear uniforms that fit into a certain theme, and it’s a clear condition of employment, we’ll give this one to Disney.

Don’t get us wrong, we’re all for Boudlal’s right to wear the hijab in her personal life and day to day activities off the job, but Disney has clearly tried to accommodate her preferences while keeping the theme of their restaurant consistent. That theme doesn’t include the type of head covering that Boudlal would like to wear, but that doesn’t make it discriminatory or offensive.

As a matter of style, is the hat silly looking? Sure, but so are many of the other uniforms employees are expected to wear. Employees who may be Muslim, Jewish, Christian, or Buddhist, but for all intents and purposes are simply seen as Disney employees by the millions of guests who visit each year.

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