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Old 08-14-2012, 12:49 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by AliceIn View Post
It's sort of a Catch-22 isn't it? What would happen if the woman playing Cinderella wanted to start wearing hijab? If Disney offered her the opportunity to be Tigger since the hijab wouldn't change the costume and she refused, would that be different? Does Disney have to alter the characters to accommodate religious beliefs? I think as long as they offered her a similar position for similar pay, she has no basis for a lawsuit.
I am pretty sure that Disney would not have to alter a character's costume as part of a religious accommodation. Even though the statute was passed 48 years ago, there still isn't a clear answer to this, however. Most of the precedent arises out of security (police or correctional officers) or safety situations.

This young lady was a hostess at a restaurant. The fascinating issue here is that Disney's core principle is the "look" which is based on the idea that every cast member is "on stage." Whether courts will agree with Disney remains to be seen. If she were Cinderella's friend, the legal issue would be quite different.

What makes me question the viability of her legal claim is that the EEOC chose not to represent her. That by itself isn't unusual as the EEOC decides not to represent the employee in the vast majority of discrimination/retaliation claims.

But in the years following September 11, 2001, the EEOC put a special emphasis on filing lawsuits alleging religious discrimination, especially when, as here, the claim is by a Muslim who is alleging a failure to accommodate religious beliefs. That she now claims there were some disgusting remarks made by her co-workers would seem to have provided the EEOC with even more reason to file suit against Disney. Then there is the fact that the EEOC would get a ton of publicity about filing suit against Disney. (Look at the publicity generated simply because the ACLU filed the lawsuit.)

So when I wrote the blog post, I pretty much expected the EEOC to file a lawsuit on behalf of this young lady. That they apparently decided not to do so makes me think that there is more to this than has surfaced in the recent publicity.
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Old 08-14-2012, 12:57 PM   #17
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That is not trying to accomodate her anymore than if they hired people of a certain race and hid them in the back.
But they didn't do that. This is not based on how she looks, they clearly told her it's based on what she insists on wearing that conflicts with their costume....and the entire reason the job exists to begin with. Plus, she accepted the conditions of employment (something that they don't have to give her) when she worked for 2 years before deciding to push the issue.

It would be like her saying "I really want to work at Disney in costume as a character, I just don't want to wear their costume". And saying it after 2 years of doing it.

Or saying, "I want to be a truck driver, just don't want to drive a truck" after driving a truck for 2 years.

She will lose. It might even be tossed out.
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Old 08-14-2012, 01:01 PM   #18
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Jack, it appears that EEOC cleared her for litigation but, as you said, the EEOC did not file on her behalf.

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After weeks of discussions with company officials, the lawsuit says, Boudlal received initial approval to wear a Disney-designed scarf, but she was told it would need corporate approval before she could wear it to work. Not wanting to wait to mark Ramadan, Boudlal wore her own hijab to work Aug. 15, 2010, when she says she was told she could either remove the scarf, cover it with a hat or work in a job out of public sight.

She refused and, after a few additional meetings with Disney, filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The agency awarded Boudlal a notice of right to sue earlier this month, opening the door for litigation.
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Old 08-14-2012, 01:03 PM   #19
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I don't see this as any different than the rest of Disney's rules regarding Cast Member's appearance. I'm sure someone here can tell us exactly what is required, but I believe there are regulations regarding hair styles, facial hair in men, and other things like chewing gum which, if ignored, are firing offenses.

It seems like Disney was much more accommodating with this situation than they would be with any regular "out of uniform" issue, due to the fact that religious beliefs were part of the mix.

From reading all the information provided, it seems this woman was not interested in continuing to work at Disney, and is most interested now in getting money from them by other means (lawsuit).
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Old 08-14-2012, 02:10 PM   #20
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Shameless plug:

The Disneyland Podcast team shares their opinions about this story on this week's show. Tune in Thursday.

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Old 08-14-2012, 02:18 PM   #21
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To me, the ethnic slurs were what makes me think this woman has a claim, whether Disney was accommodating or not. I bet that's part of the reason EEOC cleared the lawsuit.
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Old 08-14-2012, 02:26 PM   #22
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Ethnic slurs? Totally not OK.
Having to fit the "look" while working at Disney? Totally OK.

My best friend had to remove her nose ring while serving Dole Whips at Disneyland. My little sister had to cover her tattoos when she worked at Disneyland a few years later. They require a particular look and that's not a surprise to anyone who works there. Despite her having accepted the job and worked there for some time with the original "look", Disney was willing to accomodate her within the look, she turned them down. I don't think she has a case on those facts.
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Old 08-14-2012, 02:52 PM   #23
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To me, the ethnic slurs were what makes me think this woman has a claim, whether Disney was accommodating or not. I bet that's part of the reason EEOC cleared the lawsuit.
I agree that the ethnic slurs are reproachable. But if Disney disciplined the "slur"ers (for lack of a better made-up word), then Disney might be able to avoid blame on that score. Let's say that I called my co-worker something offensive. If I did it once, was reprimanded, and it didn't happen again by me, my employer should be off the hook. Disney can't possibly stop something from happening before it happens. My employer, however, should be held accountable if they are aware of my wrongdoing and do nothing to stop it.
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Old 08-14-2012, 03:04 PM   #24
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Jack, it appears that EEOC cleared her for litigation but, as you said, the EEOC did not file on her behalf.
The statement you quoted tells me the reporter didn't really understand the process. No one who knows anything about this area of the law ever says a "right to sue" notice is "awarded."

First, except for this unique situation (and perhaps even here), it has nothing whatsoever to do with whether the claim has merit. (And as I said, I suspect the issuance of a "right to sue notice" tends to show the lack of merit but I am speculating and could be dead wrong.)

Any employee who wants to sue under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (which prohibits discrimination "because of [an] individual's . . . religion") must first exhaust the employee's "administrative remedies" by filing a "charge" (complaint) or having a charge filed with the EEOC or (the equivalent state agency). The primary purpose of the EEOC proceeding is provide the parties with an opportunity to settle ("conciliate") the discrimination allegations. When the EEOC sends the charge to the employer it is sent with a letter proposing mediation.

If the claim doesn't settle, the EEOC can dismiss the charge (by finding no reasonable cause to believe discrimination occurred) or it can find reasonable cause to believe discrimination has occurred. If it finds reasonable cause and the employer refuses to settle, the EEOC can then file suit against the employer, thought it doesn't always file suit if it finds reasonable cause.

Title VII requires an employee to give the EEOC 180 days to investigate the complaint and to work out a settlement. After that time has expired, the employee can request a "right to sue" letter. That is what the EEOC issued here. The only legal prerequisite for being "awarded" a right to sue notice is to let 180 days pass after filing the charge. (Though in some instances the EEOC will issue the right to sue notice before 180 days have passed.)

Regardless, once a lawsuit is filed, the whole case starts anew. I have seen a number of claims where the EEOC found reasonable cause and the court dismissed the lawsuit, and vice versa.

And Tom, I'm waiting with breathless anticipation for the Disneyland podcast team to shed some light on this murky subject. (OK, I'm teasing a little since you put in your shameless plug, but honestly, I look forward to hearing what you think about it.)
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Old 08-14-2012, 03:07 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by Stacy's a freak View Post
I agree that the ethnic slurs are reproachable. But if Disney disciplined the "slur"ers (for lack of a better made-up word), then Disney might be able to avoid blame on that score. Let's say that I called my co-worker something offensive. If I did it once, was reprimanded, and it didn't happen again by me, my employer should be off the hook. Disney can't possibly stop something from happening before it happens. My employer, however, should be held accountable if they are aware of my wrongdoing and do nothing to stop it.
This is from the court document (bolding mine). If it's true, Disney is certainly at fault.

From early on in her employment, Ms. Boudlal suffered from repeated ethnic and religious slurs from her co-workers, which she reported to management.
Among other things, she was called a “terrorist,” “camel,” and “Kunta Kinte,” the slave from the famous book Roots by Alex Haley. Ms. Boudlal’s co-workers also mocked her by stating, among other things, that Arabs are terrorists, that she speaks the terrorist language and that she was trained to make bombs. Ms. Boudlal repeatedly reported the harassment to her managers, who admitted there was a problem, but who never took any action. On most occasions, Ms. Boudlal’s managers merely deflected the complaints by stating that it would take time to change things. Finally, one of the managers told her that she needed to stop complaining.
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Old 08-14-2012, 03:09 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by roomthreeseventeen View Post
This is from the court document (bolding mine). If it's true, Disney is certainly at fault.

From early on in her employment, Ms. Boudlal suffered from repeated ethnic and religious slurs from her co-workers, which she reported to management.
Among other things, she was called a “terrorist,” “camel,” and “Kunta Kinte,” the slave from the famous book Roots by Alex Haley. Ms. Boudlal’s co-workers also mocked her by stating, among other things, that Arabs are terrorists, that she speaks the terrorist language and that she was trained to make bombs. Ms. Boudlal repeatedly reported the harassment to her managers, who admitted there was a problem, but who never took any action. On most occasions, Ms. Boudlal’s managers merely deflected the complaints by stating that it would take time to change things. Finally, one of the managers told her that she needed to stop complaining.
Awful! I agree that if this is true, heads will roll.
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Old 08-14-2012, 03:17 PM   #27
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This is from the court document (bolding mine). If it's true, Disney is certainly at fault.

From early on in her employment, Ms. Boudlal suffered from repeated ethnic and religious slurs from her co-workers, which she reported to management.
Among other things, she was called a “terrorist,” “camel,” and “Kunta Kinte,” the slave from the famous book Roots by Alex Haley. Ms. Boudlal’s co-workers also mocked her by stating, among other things, that Arabs are terrorists, that she speaks the terrorist language and that she was trained to make bombs. Ms. Boudlal repeatedly reported the harassment to her managers, who admitted there was a problem, but who never took any action. On most occasions, Ms. Boudlal’s managers merely deflected the complaints by stating that it would take time to change things. Finally, one of the managers told her that she needed to stop complaining.
You know what bothers me about this is that I can't find these allegations in any of the publicity that was generated when she filed her charge. I looked at a lot of articles when the charge was filed (late summer 2010) and don't recall any mentioning "repeated ethnic and religious slurs." You would think that this, if it occurred, would have been blazened across the banner of the OC Register at the time. But perhaps I missed it.

I'm reminded of the "caution" suspects in the UK get when they are interviewed by police: "You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you fail to mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say will be given in evidence."
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Old 08-14-2012, 04:45 PM   #28
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You know what bothers me about this is that I can't find these allegations in any of the publicity that was generated when she filed her charge. I looked at a lot of articles when the charge was filed (late summer 2010) and don't recall any mentioning "repeated ethnic and religious slurs." You would think that this, if it occurred, would have been blazened across the banner of the OC Register at the time. But perhaps I missed it.
I don't remember that part either, but it's possible the press was only interested in the part about the woman's hijab. The suit filed by the ACLU of Southern California alleges that the cast member filed written complaints going back to 2008. I assume copies of those complaints are in her employee file.
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Old 08-14-2012, 04:53 PM   #29
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You know what bothers me about this is that I can't find these allegations in any of the publicity that was generated when she filed her charge. I looked at a lot of articles when the charge was filed (late summer 2010) and don't recall any mentioning "repeated ethnic and religious slurs." You would think that this, if it occurred, would have been blazened across the banner of the OC Register at the time. But perhaps I missed it.
I don't remember any such claims either, which made me think they are sensationalizing the case to get better negotiating position.

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I'm reminded of the "caution" suspects in the UK get when they are interviewed by police: "You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you fail to mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say will be given in evidence."
That's interesting, as it's opposite of how they are warned here in the U.S., according to their "Miranda rights", anything they say "can and will be used against you in a court of law."
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Old 08-18-2012, 10:28 AM   #30
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Great rant by Nancy on the DL podcast.
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