Grocery store cashier says he was fired for hugging customer
WHITEHALL, Mich. – A Muskegon County grocery store employee says he was fired for giving a customer a hug.
It's controversy that's ripping through the small community of Whitehall and has the man accused facing charges.
Fred Civis says it was just a hug, a friendly way he liked to greet customers throughout his 39 years at Plumb's Valu-Rite Foods.
But the alleged victim felt differently, leading to Civis' termination and criminal charges.
A Facebook page called "Boycott Whitehall Plumb's for Fred" started this week as members of the community rallied together Wednesday in support of Civis, holding signs and chanting "We want Fred!"
Civis described the incident to FOX 17.
"A pal hug, you put your arm around the shoulder, you put your arm around the shoulder, ya know you're best pals," he said.
Civis says that was July 24 and he was fired a few days later after the customer complained. But the incident was far from over when a sheriff's deputy came to his home and arrested Civis on charges of misdemeanor assault and battery.
The situation sparked Whitehall resident Timothy Cooper to start a Facebook page in support of Civis.
"I just want to cry because it makes me feel great," Civis said of the support.
"Fred's been here almost as long as Plumb's has, I remember Fred when I was young, he`s been here close to 40 years," Cooper said.
Plumb's President and CEO James Nader released a statement:
"Plumbs Value-Rite Foods is committed to providing a safe, enjoyable shopping experience for all of our customers. 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.
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.
We are honored to serve our customers as their neighborhood market and we will continue working to ensure that Plumb's customers have the finest shopping experience anywhere."
While supporters protested Civis' termination outside Plumb's, an employee came outside giving Civis a hug and telling him 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.
He'll be back in court for a preliminary hearing for the misdemeanor assault and battery charge on Sept. 16.
More on AOL:
100-year-old turtle proves you're never too old to move
Buckingham Palace guard puts on a subtle show for visitors
Princeton worker put on leave for medical marijuana