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Is Hugging Sexual Harassment?

feldman_amy Amy Feldman
Amy E. Feldman is a business commentator and legal business...
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By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Is hugging sexual harassment?

The Huffington Post recently carried an article about the new norms in offices. While men tend to shake hands as a greeting, women often hug when they see a colleague. A male worker voiced concern about how to greet female friends in the office when a handshake seems too formal but a hug seems worrisome. So the question: is hugging a coworker sexual harassment?

An action is only harassing if it’s perceived by the person (in this case the one receiving the hug) as offensive. It’s not harassment if it’s not unwelcome. But it can be considered inappropriate even if it’s not meant sexually if the recipient feels uncomfortable, and since it’s often hard to know whether it’s seen as friendly or creepy, it’s best to take cues from the other person. If the person leans in for a hug and you are comfortable, then reciprocate the friendly gesture.

Don’t linger too long and don’t let those hands wander. And if it’s just not your thing, keep your arms crossed – or full with papers – and people will take your cues and leave you alone.

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