February 2, 2023
Workplace harassment lawyer

Tips a Workplace Harassment Lawyer Must Know: What Does the Law Say?

As a Workplace harassment lawyer in Nigeria, the success of your involvement in any brief revolving around harassment in the workplace largely depends on your knowledge of what the Nigerian laws say about workplace harassment. Wok-life can really be frustrating, miserable and overwhelming for an employee who is faced with harassment in his or her workplace.

According to BusinessNewsDaily, Workplace harassment can include physical, verbal, sexual and emotional harassment. It’s not just women who are affected by workplace harassment. Anyone can be a victim.

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention No.190, violence and harassment are identified as violations directed at persons because of their sex or gender, or disproportionately affecting persons of a particular sex or gender.

The first international treaty to recognise the right of everyone to a world of work free from violence and harassment is the C190 – Violence and Harassment Convention, 2019 Treaty. It also includes gender-based violence and harassment. According to Article 1 of the Treaty, the term “violence and harassment” in the world of work refers to a range of unacceptable behaviours and practices, or threats thereof, whether a single occurrence or repeated, that aim at, result in, or are likely to result in physical, psychological, sexual or economic harm, and includes gender-based violence and harassment.

In Nigeria, certain employees take disproportionate advantage of the fact that Nigeria has no specific law on workplace harassment to physically and mentally victimised and harass their workers. In as much as there is no specific law on workplace harassment in Nigeria, there are laws that have general provisions on harassment done in any place including Workplace harassment.

Most corporations and institutions include workplace harassment under the code of ethics of the organisation. Harassment by employees affects the performance of workers in an organisation and also interferes with productivity.

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Laws a Workplace Harassment Lawyer in Nigeria Should Know and What They Say About Workplace Harassment.

Some of the laws in Nigeria that speak about harassment include Section 34 of the Constitution, The Penal code ( Section 281, 282 and 285), the Criminal code( Section 351, 352 & 360) and the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act ( 46, 47) and the Lagos State Prohibition Against Domestic Violence Law 2007.

  • Section 34 of the 1999 constitution provides that “every Nigerian individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person and accordingly (a) No person shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment b) no person shall be held in slavery or servitude, and (c) no person shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour.”
  • Section 351 of the Nigerian Criminal Code Act provides for the Punishment of assault. It states that “Any person who unlawfully assaults another is guilty of a misdemeanour, and is liable if no greater
    punishment is provided, to imprisonment for one year.
  • Section 352 of the Same Act provides for Assault with intent to commit the unnatural offence. It states that “Any person who assaults another with intent to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for fourteen years.
  • While Section 360 of the same Act provides for Indecent assaults on females, Section 353 provides for Indecent assaults on males.
  • According to Section 360Any person who unlawfully and indecently assaults a woman or girl is guilty of a misdemeanour and is liable to imprisonment for two years.”
  • Section 353 is to the effect that “Any person who unlawfully and indecently assaults any male person is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for three years. The offender cannot be arrested without a warrant.

What does the Penal code Say? – Tips for a Workplace Harassment Lawyer

Section 281 of the penal code states that “Whoever, in order to gratify the passions of another person, procures, entices, or leads away, even with her consent, a woman or girl for immoral purposes shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to seven years and shall also be liable to fine.”

Section 285 states that “Whoever commits an act of gross indecency upon the person of another without his consent or by the use of force or threats compels a person to join with him in the commission of that act, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years and shall also be liable to fine. Provided that consent given by a person below the age of sixteen years to such an act when done by his teacher, guardian or a person entrusted with his care or education shall not be deemed to be consent within the meaning of this section.”

Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2011

  • Section 264: (1) Any person who sexually harasses another commits a felony and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for three (3) years.
  • The Criminal Law of Lagos State which prohibits harassment defines harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, and other visual, verbal or physical conduct of sexual nature. Which when submitted to or rejected ; (c) creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive learning or working environment.

The Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act, 2015 (VAPP Act)

  • Section 46 of the act describes Sexual harassment as “unwanted conduct of a sexual nature or other conduct based on sex or gender which is persistent, serious and demeans, humiliates or creates a hostile or intimidating environment and this may include physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct.”

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What you Should Know as a Workplace Harassment Lawyer in Nigeria

  • Some states like Lagos and Ekiti have enforced state laws regulating harassment and gender-based violence.
  • For Lagos, it is the Lagos State Prohibition Against Domestic Violence Law 2007, while for Ekiti, it is the Ekiti State Gender-Based Violence (Prohibition) Law 2019.
  • The National Industrial Court has exclusive jurisdiction in matters relating to or connected with any labour, employment, trade unions, industrial relations and matters arising from the workplace.
  • Order 14 of the National Industrial Court Civil Procedure Rules 2017 provides for sexual harassment, it also states different kinds of acts and circumstances that can constitute sexual harassment in the workplace.
  • It also recognises that sexual harassment is an offence for which a person can bring a claim to court.

While these are the most prominent examples of laws enacted to deter people from Workplace harassment, safe working environments are the consequence of well-planned and consistently practised individual policies within the workplace. Whether you are a lawyer or own a small business or work at one, do your best to help foster and build a positive policy and protect your workers and associates. It will protect your business from potential liability and create a safe, inclusive environment that assists in boosting the morale of workers and improving employee retention.

As a Workplace harassment lawyer, only should you be familiar with these laws, but so should your clients. This would enable them to know their rights within the workplace and also know how to seek redress in cases of violations or anticipated violations.

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