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Disney agrees to allow Muslim intern to wear hijab

A Muslim woman employed as an intern at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, will be allowed to wear an Islamic head scarf, or hijab, at work, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) announced, after the agency’s greater Los Angeles area office intervened on the woman’s behalf.

The intern was hired based on a telephone interview through Disney’s College Program, but when she arrived for her training and orientation, she was asked by Disney representatives why she had not informed them of her head scarf. She was then told she would have to take a different position, with less guest interaction, and would have to work in the stockroom until Disney could create a customized uniform for her in the different position. When she asked to be accommodated in the vacation planner position, she was told that a customized uniform would take five months, about the same length of time as the internship. Within a week of CAIR’s intervention, Disney offered an accommodation for the intern in the vacation planner role. Disney provided a clothing option that met the woman’s religious requirements and that was within the company’s uniform guidelines.

“We are pleased that Disney found a way to fulfill the Muslim employee’s religious accommodation request,” said Ameena Qazi, CAIR-LA staff attorney and deputy executive director, who also represented the Muslim intern. “This sends a message to prospective minority applicants and employees that they are a welcome and valuable addition to Disney’s team.”

Over the years, CAIR-LA and other CAIR offices have received complaints from Muslim women who haven’t been allowed to hold front-stage jobs with Disney because of their hijab. CAIR is now urging Disney to implement a corporate-wide policy “that reflects an employee’s legally-protected right to wear religious attire.”

CAIR-LA executive director Hussam Ayloush last week sent a letter to Disney executives advocating a change in Disney’s “Look Policy,” in keeping with the company’s diversity initiatives, that will allow qualified Muslim women who wear the hijab to be recruited and retained as Disney employees. “[This] case clearly demonstrates that accommodation of Muslim women’s requests to wear the headscarf is possible in `front-stage’ positions or positions with significant guest interaction,” Ayloush wrote.

Earlier this year, another Muslim woman urged that Disney permit her to wear the hijab in her position as hostess at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel. That case is ongoing.