It may seem hard to believe, but a battle has been brewing in a small town in west Michigan over "hugging" and the controversy is escalating.

The Detroit News is reporting today that it all began when Fred Civis, a clerk at Plumb's Valu-Rite Foods in Whitehall, was fired for hugging a customer.

Should someone be fired for hugging customers?

Civis had been on the job for 39 years before the incident which led to his arrest and subsequent firing.  He has been charged with assault and battery and is scheduled to appear in court later this month.  The misdemeanor charge is punishable by a $5,000 fine and up to 90 days in jail.

Civis has remained silent on the incident, but his wife defended him in a Facebook post.

"This a terrible accusation," Marsha Civis wrote.  She aimed her comments at her husband's accuser.  "I hope you will grow up and just love people."

The accusations and Civis' firing have prompted a boycott of the store by supporters of the embattled clerk and even death threats against the woman identified publically as having made the complaint.  Problem is, it's not the right woman.  Her identity remains a mystery.

Those at Plumb's defend the decision to fire Civis.  They claim this wasn't an isolated incident and that he had been warned "several times" about touching customers and invading their personal space.

"I don't terminate someone for giving unwanted hugs," said Jim Nader, Plumb's president and chief executive.  "He just couldn't follow the policy."

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