A former Claire’s employee quit after her store manager, along with a parent, pressured her to pierce a non-consenting child’s ear. While the employee refused, and the parent and young child ultimately left the store without new earrings, the issue highlighted an important question: Should companies respect a parent’s wishes more than a child’s right to bodily autonomy?
The former employee, Raylene Marks, posted a detailed open letter to Claire’s on Facebook over the weekend recounting her experience and calling upon the North American chain to revise its policies.
“The girl pleaded and sobbed for thirty minutes not to be pierced. Despite Mom saying, ‘Honey, we can go home whenever you want,’ she was not letting her daughter go home,” Marks recounted. “She was putting a great deal of pressure on her daughter to go through with the piercing. 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… The 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 added that she is “inclined to respect a child’s right to say, ‘NO,’ to any adult forcing any kind of non-medical contact on them” and refused to move forward with the piercing. This decision got back to her manager, whom Marks said explicitly told her she would have to follow through with all piercings, regardless of the child’s wishes, in the future — even if that meant a parent physically restrained a child.
“Your Policies and Procedures Manual offers only one policy, Policy 509, on the right to refuse a piercing,” Marks continued. “It is this: ‘We reserve the right to refuse an ear piercing if a successful one cannot be done.’ There is no mention of the use of physical restraint by the parent, or the employee’s right to refuse an ear piercing if their concerns are for the emotional welfare of the child.”
Marks further implored the company to make specific changes to the existing policy that “protects both the rights of the child to protect his or her own body and the right for the employee to refuse to pierce a heavily distressed child that adamantly refuses to have his or her ears pierced.”
Claire’s has since responded to Marks’ letter saying the company does intend to revise its policies. The company also released a statement to People, saying that it believed Marks “acted appropriately and in line with our policy by refusing to do the piercing” and that it would launch an investigation into alleged non-complying stores.
Choosing to pierce a child’s ears is a big decision for parents and children that requires healthy conversations and research. There are lists of things parents need to know before greenlighting ear piercings, including possible risks and preventative vaccines, how to find a reputable piercer, and how to keep kids relaxed during the procedure. Most importantly, make sure your child is fully prepared to go through with the piercing and be willing to leave if he’s not — yes, even if you drove across town to the mall.