California Lawmaker Banned From Hugging Coworkers After Numerous Complaints

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Senator Bob Hertzberg of the California Senate has been officially reprimanded for giving unwanted hugs to women and men in the workplace. Hertzberg, nicknamed “Huggy Bear” by co-workers has been banned from further physical contact in the workplace, says the Sacramento Bee. Official complaints were made by two female legislators and a male sergeant-at-arms.

The Senate Rules Committee wrote to Hertzberg in a letter released Thursday.

Senator Bob Hertzberg aka ‘Huggy Bear’ Has Been Told His Hugging On The Job Is Unwelcome

“You cannot solve the problem by asking someone if a hug is unwelcome or welcome because a person may not feel comfortable telling you it is unwelcome. Any further similar behavior will result in the Rules Committee recommending more severe discipline.”

The investigation was launched after former Assemblywoman Linda Halderman complained that Hertzberg pinned her arms and “thrust his groin” into her. Two other sitting lawmakers also came forward to say that Hertzberg crossed a line with them too during “hugs.” The male sergeant-at-arms made a similar complaint that Hertzberg backed into him, grinding against him.

This is the third time that Bob Hertzberg has been counseled about unwanted touching on the job. This current ruling, banning Hertzberg from hugging on the job comes after the prior times when Bob Hertzberg was reportedly “skeptical” of past complaints, and they claimed he “missed opportunities to understand that some people were genuinely troubled by his hugging.”

The Rules Committee resolved the investigation with a reprimand and an order “not to initiate hugs” because of “mitigating factors, such as the fact that the majority of your hugs are not unwelcome, the motivation is not sexual in nature, you were not given sufficient details regarding past complaints (which may have made you change your behavior) and you expressed remorse.”

Hertzberg Was Told He Can’t Hug Co-Workers During Office Hours

Hertzberg responded that even though Halderman’s complaint could not be thoroughly verified, he wanted to release a statement.

“Even so, I understand that I cannot control how a hug is received, and that not everyone has the ability to speak up about unwelcome behavior,” he said. “It is my responsibility to be mindful of this, and to respect the Rules Committee’s request to not initiate hugs.”

Hertzberg says that his hugging is not “sexual by nature,” and he apologized to anyone that was made to feel uncomfortable.

“All my life, a hug has been a way of greeting friends and colleagues – a gesture of warmth and kindness and a reflection of my exuberance.”

Bob Hertzberg has been known throughout his whole career for his “signature hugs.” Hertzberg even distributed pins that read “I was hugged by Assemblymember Bob Hertzberg” at the 2000 California Democratic convention.

The Los Angeles Daily News stated that Republican Sen. Joel Anderson of Alpine questioned why no names were listed in the complaint against Bob Hertzberg, and he wondered if it was because the people with valid complaints don’t feel like they would be protected.

“If they don’t feel comfortable, then how does the rank and file employee feel comfortable? How does that person in the public feel comfortable?”

The Los Angeles Times reported that the Rules Committee has now stated to Bob Hertzberg and the public that Hertzberg is on notice to stop hugging and physical contact at work.

“You are now on notice that your behavior has been unwelcome.”

Hertzberg Says That The Bigger Problem Is With The Complaint Process

But Bob Hertzberg believes the bigger problem is with the complaint process because he didn’t find out that there were any concerns until recently, two years after the alleged unwanted touching.

“There’s no question that there’s a problem in the process,” he said. “But what I have tried to do is to be a constructive force. I have been taking notes as I have been going through this myself. I have been giving a great deal of attention to figure out: How do we fix it?”