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My Boss Is Touching Me. Am I Being Sexually Harassed?

On Behalf of | Jan 3, 2014 | Gender Discrimination, Sexual Harassment |

Sex Harassment Attorney Answers: What is sexual harassment? Can my boss hug me? What should I do if my boss is touching me? How do I deal with my boss grabbing me?

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In the employment arena, employers should never physically touch employees. Whether such touching, be it a hug, a shoulder message, or even a hand that lingers too long on a subordinate’s back, is found to be sexual harassment will be determined on a case-by-case basis (a good reason to get the direct help of employment attorneys). There are two types of sexual harassment, quid pro quo sexual harassment and hostile work environment sexual harassment. Quid pro quo sexual harassment is when your boss offers something of value in your job for sexual or romantic favors. Hostile work sexual harassment environment harassment occurs when the boss’s sexual harassment is frequent and severe. Hostile work sexual harassment environment harassment claims can also occur when it is the conduct of a co-worker that is allowed or tolerated by your boss or management, who knows that it is going on and fails to do anything about it.

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Again, a lot will depend on the circumstances. For example, let’s look at whether a hug can be sexual harassment. At one end of the “am I being sexually harassed spectrum,” if your boss gave you one hug after learning that your mother died, this is probably not sexual harassment. “Probably?” you ask. Well, as an employment lawyer, we always qualify; and there might be other circumstances. How many times has the boss found an excuse to hug or touch? Did the hug last too long? Did he whisper something inappropriate in your ear during the hug? Have you reported him or her before for sexually offensive conduct?

Let’s look at a real life hug example: A high school in Duluth, Georgia recently suspended a 17-year old student for an entire year after he hugged one of his teachers, claiming that the “hug” in question constituted sexual harassment. Surveillance video at the school captures the hug in question, whereby the student, Sam McNair, placed his arms around the female teacher, giving her a hug. The video then shows the teacher pushing McNair away. McNair maintains that the hug was an innocent act, however, the teacher says otherwise.

Indeed, according to the discipline report maintained by the school, the teacher said that McNair’s lips and cheek touched her neck and that she warned Sam about hugging in the past. McNair denies both that his lips/cheek touched the teacher and that he was previously warned by her or any other teacher about hugging. This is the crux of the dispute.

As a result of the teacher’s complaint against McNair, the school suspended him for a full year. At the time of his suspension, McNair was a senior at the school in question.

Now this case has drawn national attention and raises the larger question of whether an isolated “hug” constitutes sexual harassment. If anything, this case should signal to employees in the workplace that no incident of inappropriate behavior, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem, should be tolerated by the employee or the employer for that matter. Even small inappropriate acts by a supervisor or a co-worker may constitute sexual harassment, especially if the acts occur more than once.

If this has left you with more questions about your particular situation, you have a good reason to call the right attorney to get help. Indeed, once you determine that sexual harassment occurred, next question, “What should I do when I’m being sexually harassed?” definitely need the direct involvement of an experienced attorney to help.

Sexual harassment is unlawful under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and similar Ohio laws. If you feel that you are being sexually harassed or are working in a sexually charged or hostile working environment, you should not wait to call the right attorney at 866-797-6040 to schedule a free and confidential consultation. At Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm, you will meet with a sexual harassment lawyer/hostile work environment attorney to find out what your legal rights are and the best way to protect them. Sexual harrassment is a form of gender discrimination, and employers should be held accountable if they discriminate against female workers in any fashion – but particularly for sexual harrassment.


The materials available at the top of this page and at this gender discrimination and employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you are still asking “what should I do …”, “I’m being sexually harassed …” “my supervisor grabbed my…”, “my boss is touching…” or “how do I …”, your best course is to contact an Ohio sexual harassment attorney/hostile work environment lawyer to obtain advice with respect to sexual harassment/hostile work environment questions or any particular employment law issue. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at the top of this page or through this employment law website are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm, Brian Spitz, or any individual attorney.

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