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WHITEHALL, Mich. – A Michigan grocery store fired one of its longtime workers after a customer complained when he gave her a hug, according to a report on Fox17online.com. The hug also led to Fred Civis’ arrest.

Civis worked at Plumb’s Valu-Rite Foods for 39 years prior to his recent termination. He said he was fired a few days after giving a customer a hug on July 24. After he was fired, a sheriff’s deputy arrested Civis on charges of misdemeanor assault and battery.

Civis said he has been giving customers what called “pal hugs” for years without issue. As news of his firing and arrest spread, so did support.

In addition to a “Boycott Whitehall Plumb’s for Fred” Facebook page, community members held a rally outside the store in his honor.

Fire over hugs 01

“Plumbs Value-Rite Foods is committed to providing a safe, enjoyable shopping experience for all of our customers,” Plumb’s President and CEO James Nader said in a statement. “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.”

He added the decision to fire Civis 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,” the statement continued. “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.”

Civis is scheduled to appear on court on September 16.

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