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To Hug Or Not To Hug In The Office This Holiday Season

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Imagine you are a manager in attendance at a company-sponsored holiday party and in the spirit of the holiday season you hug a number of co-workers of the opposite or same sex. You have worked with some of them for a long time and others are very new employees.

The following week a complaint regarding your conduct is made to the company’s human resources manager. What happens now regarding you, the complainant and the HR department? The true answer is it all depends–it depends on history, severity, context and perspective, and it depends on the type of action the company takes to respond to the complaint, the result of any investigation and the way you and the company react.

First, given all the recent media reports, it is important to recognize that while several more outlandish forms of touching–groping, pinching, patting or grabbing–are clearly inappropriate and can form the basis for a claim of sexual harassment, any form of unwanted or unwelcome contact could be seen as being inappropriate and therefore lead to an HR complaint. So here, while hugging may seem an innocuous social convention, especially at a party, it could still be unwanted or unwelcome contact and require it to be addressed by you and HR.

Daily Business Review, excerpt posted on SouthFloridaReporter.com, Dec. 14, 2017

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