Monday, August 23, 2010

Religious Requirement and Disney Costumes

I hesitate in participating in the public discussion "brawl" involved with this story. I'm sure you've heard about a Muslim cast member suing Disney for pulling her off her hostess job because she has to hear her "hijab", or head covering.

Of course, she has every right to wear what she has to based on her belief. However, at some point, the job has a certain requirement. Disney, contrary to all the vile comments associated with this story, isn't discriminating against any religion. But the whole point of the theme park is that there are ON STAGE area and BACKSTAGE area. The on stage area is where the guests are, and the cast members are expected to "perform" for the guests when they are in this area. So it is like a stage show. Would you expect, say, an actress playing one of the many characters in "Cats" to wear a head covering because of her religious beliefs? This just doesn't make any sense, because the nature of the job requires a certain look.

Such a job requirement isn't confined to just Disney. We can think of many other occupation in which the nature of the job requires certain tasks that might be in conflict with one's beliefs. We have heard of pharmacists who refused to fill orders for birth control pills. One can also imagine that if the person in this story work at a food preparation area, or as a cook/chef, what if she has to prepare and come in contact with pork/ham? Does she simply say that she can't deal with it because of her religious beliefs? Does her employer then required to make special accommodations for her that each time there is a pork item on the menu, someone else will  have to take over her responsibility?

Disney has always had a standard for the look and appearance of the cast members. So this has nothing to do with singling out someone with a particular religion or beliefs. It is the nature of the job. From the reports that I've read, Disney would like her to take a job backstage in which her "costume" would matter less. I'd say for an employer, this is quite an accommodating gesture. If only she would consider such a thing.


1 comment:

Joe Shelby said...

I'm with you on this. I'm also wondering how much of this was staged, given that she'd worked for 2 years without one.

And yes, Disney does have some public castmembers wear such garb, but usually where it is appropriate, such as the Morocco pavilion in EPCOT, or the restaurants in Animal Kingdom and Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Disneyland has more limited options in that regard. In terms of the hotel restaurants, I think the one in Paradise Pier isn't so themed to the point where it would be as out of place as it would in the decidedly early 20th century Grand Californian.