For anyone who knows me, you know how much I despise hugging. As it turns out, my unwillingness to hug or be hugged is actually an important mitigator when it comes to avoiding liability in the workplace. Huggers beware, you should read this.
In a recent cases out of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, sexual harassment was found where male supervisors hugged female employees. In this case, a local Sheriff often greeted his female deputies with hugs while his male deputies were only subject to a cordial handshake. A few female deputies found this contact offensive and filed a federal lawsuit. The Ninth Circuit ruled that a reasonable juror could see such hugging as pervasive enough to create a hostile work environment. Did I mention the hugging in question was acknowledged to not be sexual in nature?
This isn't a new concept. A similar Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals case had similar findings when a male supervisor often hugged his employees . Even though the manager only wanted to convey a "family atmosphere," he was still found liable for sexual harassment... and he was hugging everybody, males and females alike.
What is the lesson learned here? I guess it is to keep your hands to yourself. Period. Absent the professional handshake, I recommend no physical contact between supervisors and employees unless such contact is expressly consented to. And even that is a gray area so maybe just trade the hug for a handshake and move on with life. It may seem ridiculous but ridiculous is HR's middle name.
Hands where I can see them, people. And never ever ever hug me.