Community rallies around grocery store worker arrested for hugging customer

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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 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.


  • Tana

    and yet another person with no common sense prevails,,,,human contact is sorely lacking in our country because people are afraid of being misunderstood,,,our family are huggers,,,something our daughter in laws and son in law had to just get use to,,,i think the person who reported this is just mean,,,why didnt (he or she) just step back and say, im sorry that make me uncomfortable,,,to which this hugger could have said ” OK, you have a nice day” people have to make a big deal out of everything,,,i for one am sick of the fact that everything has to be a “big deal” some things are really just what they are “hugs” to everyone :)

    • Psy-Ko Smiley

      I’m not a hugger but still agree with Tana. If it was me in the situation I would have just been like whoa, please don’t do that. It may have made me decide to shop elsewhere, but thats all. No need for all the complaint, fired and arrested? For a hug? Thats ridiculous!

  • Jeff B

    If this stands, Plumbs, the police, the DA, and the plaintiff should be publicly shamed and shunned. Plumbs are idiots and this will cause them big time.

    • Brenda

      They could have reprimanded him instead of firing him. Thats horrible. The needs more hugs. The person who reported this should be ashamed.

      • respect and boudaries

        He was given a warning. In fact he was warned he would be terminated if it happened again.

        The disciplinary action was gotten as part of a freedom of information request.

        It is very sad, because on other sites it says that Fred has a disability.

        He needed to learn what was appropriate behavior to keep his job.

        You cannot touch another without permission.

        It happened again and again.

        This did not need to happen but to suggest that it was alright for Fred to give hugs that made others uncomfortable without their consent is reprehensible, and illegal.

        Which is the saddest thing.

        I am sorry for his pain because I believe he truly does not understand.

  • Ann E.

    It should be noted that Fred says it was “just a hug”. Do you really think there would be criminal charges if it was “just a hug” to the other person? Read between the lines on this one, and look at who’s side of the story is being told here. Not the victim’s. Plumb’s received multiple complaints about this employee’s inappropriate touching. Sounds like the company asked Fred to stop, and one more complaint would result in termination. The employee was insubordinate and did not listen to the employer, and the employer took appropriate action in the best interest of the store’s customers.

    • Ginger Welch

      Ann, I have shopped at Plumbs for over 35 years and Fred has always been there. If the store really felt as though Fred was in violation multiple times, then shame on them for taking 40 years to do something about it. Fred is a very nice man who truly cares about the customers that used to go into the Plumbs store in Whitehall. Everyone is hearing only one side because the “victim” in this case is not saying anything. This would be one more reason to believe that she is after money and that is all there is to it.

  • Paula

    There are some people who just don’t know how to be nice and when someone is nice to them they don’t know how to handle it. In 39 years the store never had a complaint then they need to realize that that person was a sour puss. Give the man his job back.

    • staleye

      There were multiple complaints, not just one. He did not do what his employer asked of him, and he was terminated, after being warned about it.

      • acw

        Staleye probably knows this information because he read the entire article. You should try it sometime, instead of just reading a headline and posting uninformed comments.

      • sw

        @acw…Maybe you should do the same. It did not say multiple complaints it said multiple violations of their policies which means it could have been anything, ie. being late whatever. You need to practice what you preach and stop making yourself look like the village idiot.

  • Just thinking

    One person has just ruined someones life because she was hugged. We have a word for that. They can put his name who was this B.?

  • Carrie

    If you know Fred… You would know he would never hurt anyone intentionally. He is a kind man who would not hurt anyone intentionally. I have known Fred for 48 years. I grew up with he and his family.

    • Rush

      Out of curiosity since you know Fred as being a kind man that would never hurt anyone. How does he feel about all of the people that want Plumbs to go out of business over this, leaving his long time friends and coworkers unemployed?

      • sw

        Maybe Plumbs should have thought about their employee over one freaking nasty woman who was looking for a payday. That’s not Fred’s problem

  • Abby Jacobs

    In my opinion, Plumb’s is definitely not a pleasant company to work for because they rule by using fear and intimidation. If any of you have worked for a company like this, you know what I mean…Applause for this man who stayed there for thirty-nine years!

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