WHITEHALL, Mich. –- A Whitehall grocery clerk was fired after he says he hugged a customer.
It happened at Plumb's Valu-Rite Foods when Fred Civis, a cashier for 39 years at the store, inappropriately touched another customer, according to charging documents. On July 29, a 25-year-old pressed assault charges.
Civis is officially charged with one count of misdemeanor assault and battery, and faces up to 93 days behind bars and/or a $500 fine. Since he lost his job, the community started the Facebook page, "Boycott Whitehall Plumb's for Fred."
While the page's likes are growing exponentially, comments have led to death threats to one family. Kim Woodland told FOX 17 that she is wrongly accused of being the victim who pressed charges.
"The things I've read and the vulgarity, I can't even go there," said Woodland. "I have kids. I have kids that live here I have a great family, we we're literally being thrown under the bus because someone needed someone to lynch, and I think it's sickening."
Woodland and her husband Jeff grew up in the Whitehall area, but now she said she feels like she does not recognize their hometown. She said her family shops regularly at Plumb's in Whitehall and called Civis "helpful." But about six months ago, she said she called Plumb's management to report Civis showing erratic behavior twice during that week.
"(Civis was) huffing and puffing, and slamming his pen down, and swearing, and muddling the drawer," said Woodland. "It was a bit aggressive, and it made me on guard; I shouldn't have to feel that way. Do I wish that he got fired? No. Did I ask for him to get fired? No."
Then earlier this week, her husband posted a comment on "Boycott Whitehall Plumb's for Fred," stating:
"The guy deserves to get fired he got a little too close to my wife and she put in a complaint a couple of times. Before you push like and boycott Plumb's wait till the truth comes out before you judge, that holds true for all things in life."
Woodland responded to her husband's comment and told FOX 17 that "My husband's couple of words have literally been transpired into something that it's not."
Jeff Woodland's comment sparked dozens of comments that call him and his wife names. Woodland said it has even led to death threats to their family.
"The things that have been said are disgusting," said Woodland. "I don't know the details of what's going on with Fred or this lawsuit, it's not our business, but I can't fathom being on the opposite end where a victim is getting victimized in a sense, because someone that's going to file that complaint, they're going to be up against what I'm up against."
Plumb's issued this update to their original statement:
"Plumb's Whitehall Market received prior customer complaints regarding inappropriate touching by Fred Civis. He was advised that a subsequent incident could lead to his termination when the latest incident occurred. Fred's resistance to changing his behavior despite specific direction from management and a final customer complaint regarding inappropriate touching by Fred resulted in his termination. Though we have received criticism for terminating his employment, we remain firm in our belief that our employees must comply with policies that ensure the safety and comfort of all our customers comes first."
According to the group's Facebook page, organizers posted that there will be a peaceful rally in the Whitehall Plumb's parking lot Saturday Aug. 6 at 10 A.M.