Hugging in the Workplace

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For some, a friendly hug might be just that, a friendly hug, but for people who are the recipients of unwarranted affection, a hug is much more than that, it is the violation of personal boundaries in the workplace. In keeping with strict anti-harassment policies, including sexual harassment, an anti-hug policy is not only a good idea, it may become required.

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In 2017, a judgment siding with the County of Yolo in California was overturned, and the plaintiff Victoria Zetwick was awarded damages. The lawsuit, originally filed in 2012, noted that Zetwick was exposed to unwanted hugs and one kiss between 1999 and 2011.

Unwanted hugging can be considered sexual harassment under The Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII notes that unwanted touching can be considered sexual harassment, and regular unwanted contact can create a hostile work environment.

According to HR experts, setting the bar low and banning hugging in the workplace is likely to save a company from unwanted litigation, and ensure that the workplace is free from hostility and harassment. While hugging may be seen as a perfectly acceptable social norm, one needs to remember that not all individuals in a workplace feel the same way about physical touch, and the invasion of one’s personal space can be construed as sexual harassment.

A strict sexual harassment policy that bars hugging, kissing and sexually suggestive language is a best practice. Such a policy protects both the employer and the employee from inappropriate behavior in the workplace and ensures personal boundaries in the workplace are respected. 

Cite this article: Lynch, N. (2017). Hugging in the Workplace. Available: https://www.lynchlf.com/blog/hugging-in-the-workplace/


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