Former Claire’s employee, Raylene Marks says the company made employees pierce the ears of unwilling children. Marks claims that management at multiple locations encouraged employees to restrain children in order to pierce their ears per their parents’ request.
In an open letter to Claire’s, Marks condemns the store and their piercing policy saying that it is unfair and cruel to children. Not to mention, the policy couldn’t be easy to follow for employees. Who wants to force a child to get a painful piercing?
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Marks became increasingly uncomfortable each time a child’s ears were pierced.
Marks explained in the open letter that her former employer, a Claire’s location in Edmonton, Alberta is known for doing on-site ear piercing and that for many children, the piercing is a right of passage. She wrote that she was never bothered when a child wanted to have their ears pierced. It was the unwilling kids that made her uncomfortable.
I had a couple ‘gray area’ piercings, though; piercings where the children resisted heavily, were pressured and intimidated by the parents into settling down, and the children weren’t happy with what had happened even after the earrings were in place and the standard lollipop had been dispensed. I didn’t feel good about those, and I started to wonder at what point the piercer and the parent are actually violating a child’s personal boundaries.
After an incident with a 7-year-old child, Marks put in her two-weeks notice.
According to Marks, a girl and her mother were in for a “double.” This refers to two piercers who simultaneously pierce both ears. Marks explained, “It’s reserved for nervous kids who might change their mind after the first earring goes in.”
It wasn’t going well and Marks says that the little girl objected. “The girl pleaded and sobbed for thirty minutes not to be pierced,” Marks described. “Despite Mom saying, ‘Honey, we can go home whenever you want,’ she was not letting her daughter go home.”
Marks could tell the child was extremely uncomfortable but the mother was not caving. Marks describes the incident further:
This child was articulate, smart, and well aware of herself and her body. She expressed that she didn’t want us touching her, that we were standing too close, that she was feeling uncomfortable. She made it clear she no longer wanted to get her ears pierced. She begged, over and over again, for Mom to please, just take her home.
That child’s message was loud and clear to me: Do not touch my body, do not pierce my ears, I do not want to be here.
Marks simply couldn’t go through with the piercing and luckily the child’s mom finally agreed that it wasn’t right. Marks expected that this was the end of the story, but the next day, she was approached by a manager.
A manager scolded Marks for not going through with the piercing.
A manager approached Marks about the incident and Marks explained that she couldn’t pierce a child’s ears if they were upset. The manager disapproved and Marks says, “I was firmly told, ‘You would have had no choice but to do it.'”
“So if a mother is physically restraining her daughter, holding her down and saying, ‘DO IT,’ while that little girl cries and asks me not to, do I do the piercing?'” Marks asked. “My manager did not hesitate to respond, ‘Yes, you do the piercing.'”
It turns out it was a company “policy” that not only her manager but even the district manager of the stores expected employees to follow.
“Children can be held down and pierced. Children do not have a voice in the piercing process. The associate doing the piercing has no right to refuse to shoot metal through the ears of a child who begs not to be touched,” Marks wrote.
Marks knew it was time to quit her job.
Now, Marks wants to shine a light on the piercing policies of Claire’s and how they affect children.
Marks knew that forcing children to have their ears pierced wasn’t right and that the policy “helps facilitate situations where children can be traumatized or otherwise subject to forms of intimidation and abuse in-store.”
“I believe in upholding a child’s right to bodily integrity at all costs, and I will not be an adult that commits an indignity to a child,” she said. “Kids who don’t want to endure the discomfort and pain of the procedure should not be forced to because a paying adult comes in, claims to be the legal guardian and insists upon the ear piercing.”
It’s wrong for Claire’s to force employees into the practice as well. “I cannot be part of a company that teaches a child that their right to say, ‘NO,’ to invasive non-medical contact can be so easily overridden by an adult, and moreover, that they’re supposed to accept that,” she added.
“If you are a company that cares about kids, I implore you to consider changing this policy that blatantly ignores every child who vocally protests, cries, shows obvious signs of distress or is physically restrained by their alleged guardian while they sob and beg to be released,” she wrote.
Marks says that a representative from Claire’s reached out to her and agreed that the policy needs work.
In the updated Facebook post, Marks says that a representative of the company agrees that their policy needs work.
“The representative claims that Policy 509 is in place to allow employees to refuse to pierce, ‘distressed and resistant,’ children, and that revisions will be made to the policy so it can’t be misconstrued,” she wrote. “I was told the policy might be changed to reflect a right to refuse a piercing if the child is, ‘distressed or resisting.'”
“I encouraged the representative to include language that allows the employee to refuse a piercing for a child who simply says, ‘No, I don’t want my ears pierced,'” she explained. “I don’t think it should have to get to the point where a child is emotionally distressed or physically resistant for their wishes to be respected,” Marks says that the representative has not followed up.
“At this time, there is no legislation in place to protect a minor who does not consent to an ear piercing. It is, to my knowledge, uncharted territory,” she wrote.
Marks says the only way changes will be made is if parents put pressure on Claire’s. “I am grateful and pleased that Claire’s has responded to me and seems willing to amend policies to integrate child consent,” she wrote. “I hope for follow-through on these intentions to create change within the company, and will hold them to it. I hope you will, too.”
We’re proud of you Raylene Marks! Thanks for taking a stand for what you believe is right.
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