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Hugging May Or May Not Be Sexual Harassment

(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) - Is hugging sexual harassment?

Two coworkers from Manchester, England broke the world record for longest hug last month, when the men hugged each other for 27 hours straight. Um, ew. How’d they…??

In any event, hugging between coworkers is a growing norm in the workplace. 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, if you are the hug initiator, it’s best to take cues from the other person.

Don’t linger too long (like 27 hours, or minutes, or seconds for that matter) and don’t let those hands wander. If you are going to be the recipient of a coworker’s hug, if you are comfortable when he leans in for it, then reciprocate the friendly gesture.

And, if it’s just not your thing, keep your arms crossed – or full with papers – and people will generally take your cues and leave you alone.

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