Pervasive Hugging Can Create Hostile Work Environment

Where correctional officer alleged sheriff created sexually hostile work environment, summary judgment for defendants was error because a reasonable juror could conclude that differences in the sheriff’s hugging of men and women were not, as the defendants argued, just “genuine but innocuous differences in the ways men and women routinely interact with members of the same sex and the opposite sex.”

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that hugging can create a hostile or abusive workplace when it is unwelcome and pervasive, and summary judgment on a hostile work environment claim is appropriate only if the defendant’s conduct was neither severe nor pervasive enough to alter the conditions of the plaintiff’s employment.

Zetwick v. County of Yolo, 2017 S.O.S. 14 (9th Cir. Feb. 23, 2017),