A Michigan man says a Muskegon County grocery store fired him for giving a customer a hug.
Whitehall residents started a Facebook page titled “Boycott Whitehall Plumb’s for Fred” when Fred Civis was fired from the store after 39 years because he hugged a customer.
The alleged victim complained about the July 24 hug and reported Civis to police.
Sheriff’s deputies came to his home and arrested him on charges of misdeamonor assault and battery.
Members of the community rallied to support Civis outside the store on Wednesday, holding signs and chanting “We want Fred!”
“I just want to cry because it makes me feel great,” Civis said of the support.
One employee came outside during the demonstration, gave Civis a hug and told him that she misses him.
“That’s why I wanted to do this job, keep this job, to make a difference and this is proving that I have made a difference,” Civis said.
“Fred’s been here almost as long as Plumb’s has, I remember Fred [from] when I was young, he`s been here close to 40 years,” said resident Timothy Cooper.
The Facebook page supporting a boycott of the store has more than 3,300 likes.
Plumb’s President and CEO James Nader said the decision to terminate Civis “was difficult.”
“We have policies in place at all of our Plumb’s locations to ensure that everyone who comes to our store is treated appropriately and respectfully,” Nader said in a statement.
“The decision to terminate Fred Civis from our Whitehall Market was difficult. The decision came after multiple violations of our policies, one of which resulted in a criminal complaint from a shopper at our Whitehall store. Though we have received strong criticism for our decision we remain firm in our belief that the safety and comfort of our customers must always come first,” the statement said.
Civis is scheduled to appear in court for a preliminary hearing on Sept. 16.
Image credit: Flickr Creative Commons / Jesslee Cuizon