LIVERMORE -- Two Bay Area families claim they were barred from riding go-karts at a popular Livermore track last summer because of their head attire, and one of them, a Muslim family, filed a discrimination complaint Tuesday with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

The other family, which practices the Sikh faith, was also expected to file a complaint with the state agency this week, said Zahra Billoo, spokeswoman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The announcement came during a news conference Tuesday morning at CAIR's Bay Area office in Santa Clara.

Both families attended the event and are two of five in the state citing separate but similar discrimination cases against Boomers. The other three families are Muslim and are claiming they were discriminated against at the business' sister parks in Southern California, including one in Irvine, Billoo said.

The complaint filed Tuesday by Sunnyvale resident Nasir Abdo, on behalf of his daughter, Noorah Abdo, alleges violations based on the park's unwillingness to allow attendees wearing religious head coverings to ride go-karts.

The one-page complaint alleges Abdo bought tickets to the ride on Aug. 8 and waited in line for several minutes with his son and two daughters -- one of whom wore a headscarf. When it was their turn to ride, an employee told Abdo that his daughter was not allowed to ride the go-karts because any head gear was not permitted on the ride.


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When Abdo asked to speak to a manager, the manager told him, "I am sorry, but for safety reasons, this is our company policy," the complaint reads.

The complaint goes on to state that the manager also presented a copy of the company policy to Abdo.

"We do not allow any headwear or neckwear on go-karts," the policy reads. "This includes hats, caps, visors, ear muffs, head phones, bandanas, scarves, ribbons, bows, neckties, turbans, yarmulkes, hijabs, doo-wraps, wigs or head wraps of any kind."

In the complaint, Abdo responds saying, "When I read the policy I was shocked ... about the material I was reading."

But the policy adds that the park created the rule because headwear and neckwear are a possible chocking hazard and a hazard to other drivers: "Around the world, people have died when hajabs, scarves and other lengthy headwear or neckwear became entangled into a go-kart's wheels or engine causing violent neck breaks and crushed windpipes. In one horrific accident ... a woman was literally decapitated when her hijab was snagged around her neck and she crashed into a wall."

A few weeks earlier, on July 28, a Sikh family from Alameda claimed it was discriminated against when the park wouldn't let them ride go-karts while wearing their traditional head attire.

The family has not filed a formal complaint, but Billoo said they plan to do so sometime this week. The Alameda family is also contemplating a lawsuit against Boomers amusement park, according to Billoo.

Four cousins from the Singh family bought tickets to ride the go-karts on July 28 and waited in line for several minutes, said attorney Manmeet Singh, who is not related to the family. When it was their turn to ride, they were told that their patkas, the traditional Sikh turbans, weren't allowed.

Singh told this newspaper last year that there was no policy stating any such thing on the premises.

"There were posted signs, but nothing about turbans," he said. "And considering how it was handled by the staff there, we feel that this was a blatant case of racism."

Michele Wischmeyer, a spokeswoman for Palace Entertainment, the company that owns Boomers, said Tuesday that the headgear ban was implemented after riders at other parks around the country -- none owned by Palace -- were injured when headscarves, hats or other loose clothing were caught in equipment.

"We do not see this is a discrimination issue but purely a safety issue," Wischmeyer said, adding that the company has no intention of changing its policy.

Palace Entertainment owns 37 parks around the United States and is based in Newport Beach.

Karina Ioffee contributed to this report. Contact Natalie Neysa Alund at 510-293-2469. Follow her at Twitter.com/nataliealund.