Confession time: I'm a hugger. When another person might be inclined to go for a warm handshake, I've got my arms flung open wide like I'm greeting a long-lost relative at the airport. Over time, I've learned to pick up cues that other people don't view social gatherings as a full contact
Why? Because I don't want to make my coworkers uncomfortable, of course. But also, I'd prefer not to get sued.
A recent post at HR Legalist offers several cases that illustrate the dangers of hugging in a professional setting. For example:
In Zetwick v. County of Yolo, No. 14-17341 (9th Cir. Feb. 23, 2017), the county sheriff frequently hugged his female officers, but he gave his male employees handshakes. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that a reasonable juror could find that the conduct was sufficiently severe or pervasive to create a hostile work environment, especially given the fact that the conduct came from a supervisor.
Another case, Madray v. Publix Supermarkets, Inc., involved a grocery store manager who was "found to have engaged in sexual harassment by hugging and patting his employees." (Ew.) The plaintiffs said they weren't initially offended, but that his behavior escalated. The Eleventh Circuit Court found that his actions constituted sexual harassment.