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Claire's policies spark backlash after an ex-employee said she was told to pierce children's ears even if they said no and needed to be physically restrained

Business Insider logo Business Insider 4/9/2019 Kate Taylor
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Source: Business Insider

  • Claire's is under fire for its policies on piercing non-consenting children's ears.
  • A former employee said that that she was told by a manager that she was expected to pierce the ears of protesting children, even if the child needed to be physically restrained by a parent.
  • Claire's said in a statement that employees can refuse to pierce children's ears, but did not provide Business Insider with any guidelines as to how workers decide when they should or should not complete piercings.

Claire's, a retailer geared at young girls and teens, is under fire for its murky ear piercing polices.

On Sunday, Raylene Marks published an open letter to Claire's, her former employer, about the company's ear piercing policies.

According to Marks, she quit her job at an Edmonton, Alberta, area Claire's location after being told by her manager that she would be expected to pierce a child's ears, even if the child protested and had to be physically restrained.

"I had a couple 'gray area' 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," Marks writes.

Recently, Marks said she was supposed to pierce the ears of a seven-year-old girl who was actively resisting having her ears pierced.

"She made it clear she no longer wanted to get her ears pierced," Marks writes. "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 said she wouldn't help pierce the child's ears. Ultimately, the girl's mother agreed not to go through with the piercing and took her daughter home.

After the incident, Marks spoke with her manager about what to do if the mother had insisted. According to Marks, her manager said she would have "no choice" but to pierce the child's ears.

"I wanted to know how far we were supposed to take this policy of piercing non-consenting children," Marks writes. "'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.'" 

Marks gave her notice and soon after posted the open letter, which has sparked backlash against Claire's online. 

"Having worked at Claires, I support this fully. ... Doing older children who were prepared, or adults, was fine, but kids who didn't want it, and usually was the parent who wanted it done, was heartbreaking, and I felt awful," reads one comment on Marks' post. 

"This teaches a child that their refusing consent to be touched means nothing," reads another. "Think of the precedent that sets for other contact in their lives. Thank you for doing what is right by that little girl and all the children that come in these stores."

Claire's told Business Insider in a statement that customer well-being is the company's "main priority," and that all children's piercings are carried out with the agreement of the legal guardian.

"In relation to the ear piercing incident involving the former employee Raylene Marks, we believe she acted appropriately and in line with our policy by refusing to do the piercing," Claire's said in a statement. "The policy is in place to ensure that if a child is distressed or resisting, Claire's employees have the right to refuse to continue the piercing."

Claire's did not respond to Business Insider's question as to whether employees are given guidelines regarding when they should refuse to complete piercings.

"We are investigating the specific store instances she mentions, and will take appropriate corrective action," the statement continued. "We will also be reviewing the policy to ensure that the intent is clear." 

RELATED VIDEO: 100 Years of Piercings [Provided by Allure]

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