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Touching A Co-Worker May – Or May Not – Be Illegal

(File photo: Joe Raedle/ Getty Images)

(File photo: Joe Raedle/ Getty Images)

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

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - What are the workplace rules when it comes to non-sexual touching?

A woman who worked at JC Penney in Minnesota sued for sexual harassment based on three separate incidents of touching by her supervisor. In one incident, he hugged her, in another he rubbed her shoulder and in a third he rubbed her back. Is that illegal?

The court said no. She lost.

But just because touching isn’t sexual doesn’t mean people don’t find it creepy. People have different levels of tolerance for the touchy-feely – the friendly hug, the double handed handshake.

If you happen to be a person who tends to reach out and touch someone, remember these rules:

Never grab your private parts or those of another, even as a joke. That can be sexual harassment. Never touch in anger. A chest poke to a subordinate when angry can be seen as hostile or even violent. Never shake hands in a bathroom before washing your hands.

And, remember that a warm smile is never offensive, never a germ spreader, and doesn’t make others think you’re creepy.

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