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When a child is in significant emotional distress and doesn’t want something cosmetic done to their body, it seems fairly logical to respect their wishes. At least that’s what Claire’s employee Raylene Marks thought. The Edmonton, Alberta native wrote an open letter to her former employer after being involved in a rather troubling situation with a mother who took her 7-year-old daughter into the store for ear piercing.

“She made it clear she no longer wanted to get her ears pierced,” writes Marks, referring to the child. “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.” Fortunately for the then sales associate, the girl’s mother eventually relented and took the girl home. But, recounting the story to her manager the next day, Marks discovered something extremely flawed about the accessories retailer’s piercing policies.

“I explained the child that refused the piercing and begged to be left alone, and I told my manager that I would not have been able to pierce that little girl’s ears if Mom had insisted on it. I was firmly told, ‘You would have had no choice but to do it.'” In other words, a child does not have autonomy over their own body. Even if if they kicked, screamed and begged the piercer to stop, they’d be out of luck.

“So I brought up the worst scenario I could think of. I wanted to know how far we were supposed to take this policy of piercing non-consenting children. ‘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?’ My manager did not hesitate to respond, ‘Yes, you do the piercing.'”

Yikes. It’s not surprising that Marks gave her notice that day. “I made a choice between facing disciplinary actions (that would eventually lead to my termination) the next time I refused to pierce the ears of children who withdrew their consent, or leaving on my own terms. I chose the latter.”

Thankfully, not all of Claire’s shared the same views as Marks’ manager. In an updated post, Marks writes, “A Claire’s representative reached out to me and told me that Claire’s felt I was acting in accordance with Policy 509. 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. 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.'”

Kudos to Marks for speaking out on the situation. We hope Claire’s continues to work with her on implementing a new policy, one that takes child consent seriously.