Nigeria: #MeToo Movement- Steps To Curbing Work Place Sexual Harassment In Nigeria

Last Updated: 27 December 2018

INTRODUCTION

Sexual Harassment has been unlawful for decades and most cases of sexual harassment at the workplace go unreported. This has been the occurrence until the #Me Too movement which brought to light series of sexual harassment cases in the workplace, tumbling notable persons in various fields in the process.

The EEOC defined sexual harassment in its guidelines as;

"Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:

  • submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment, or
  • submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for employment decisions affecting such individual, or "
  • Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment."\

The underlying ingredient of sexual harassment from the foregoing is that the sexual behavior in question is "unwelcome" and lacks consent. Contrary to popular belief, victims of sexual harassment are not limited to women. We have been made to believe the fallacy that since women are basically less threatening, they can't perpetrate sexual harassment. So, being sexually harassed by a woman is not only laughable but also enjoyable. The truth remains that what makes sexual harassment a crime is not the gender of the perpetrator, nor the physical appearance of the victim but lack of consent.

SEXUAL HARASSMENT PROVISIONS IN THE NIGERIAN LAW

The Nigerian Labour Act has no provisions criminalizing sexual harassment in the workplace. This has left some victims confused as to what legal measures to take to address the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended which is the grundnorm in Nigerian Law on the other hand, guarantees the right to dignity of human persons and right to personal liberty which workplace sexual harassment violates. Also, international conventions and instruments universally recognize a person's right to work with dignity and be protected from all forms of sexual harassment.

The Criminal Law of Lagos State 2011 has provisions criminalizing sexual harassment making Lagos state the first state in Nigeria to make laws against sexual harassment.

Section 262(1) of the Criminal Law of Lagos States 2011 provides that:

"Any person who sexually harasses another is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for three years."

Section 254(C) (1) (g) of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended in 2010) makes specific provisions granting the National Industrial Court of Nigeria exclusive jurisdiction over causes and matters "relating to or connected with any dispute arising from discrimination or sexual harassment at the workplace."

Following this constitutional provision, the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) has awarded damages in deserving cases against perpetrators of workplace sexual harassment. In Pastor (Mrs.) Abimbola Patricia Yakubu V Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria& Anor (Suit No NICN/LA/673/2013; judgement delivered on the 24th November, 2016), the claimant's case was that she was at various times subjected to continuous sexual and seductive gestures and compliments, promiscuous and obscene talks, demand for sexual favours and indecent marriage proposal from the 2nd defendant while she was in the employment of the 1st defendant. The NICN held that the claimant's right to human dignity and self-worth was violated by the 2nd defendant and awarded the sum of N5,000,000(Five Million Naira) as damages in favour of the claimant.

Recently, the National Industrial Court (NIC) amended its civil procedure rules to include provisions on workplace sexual harassment. Order 14(1) of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria Civil Procedure Rules 2017 provides that where a claimant alleges sexual harassment in the workplace, it should be indicated if the sexual harassment is;

"a. Physical conduct of a sexual nature: such as unwanted physical contact, ranging from touching to sexual assault and rape, strip search by or in the presence of the opposite sex, gesture that constitutes the alleged sexual harassment ; and/or

  1. A verbal form of sexual harassment: such as unwelcome innuendoes, suggestions and hints, sexual advances, comments with sexual overtones, sex related jokes or insults, or unwelcome graphic comments about a person's body, unwelcome and inappropriate enquiries about a person's sex life and unwelcome whistling at a person or group of persons, any document, material or exhibit in further support of the claim; and/or
  1. A non-verbal form of sexual harassment which includes unwelcome gestures, indecent exposures, and unwelcome display of sexually explicit pictures and objects ; and/or
  1. Quid pro quo harassment where an owner, employer, supervisor, member of management or co-employee undertakes or attempts to influence or influences the process of employment, promotion, training, discipline, dismissal, salary increments or other benefits of an employee or job applicant in exchange for sexual favours."

From the foregoing, sexual harassment is not only made an actionable claim, we are also clear on how to prove it in court and what amounts to workplace sexual harassment. Any worker who is a victim of any of the above actions can institute an action at the National Industrial Court and get remedies including damages, compensation and an injunction.

PREVENTION OF WORKPLACE SEXUAL HARASSMENT

It is the duty of every employer to ensure that sexual harassment doesn't thrive in the work environment. Employers need to know that they can be held vicariously liable for acts of sexual harassment by their employees and agents especially if such incidences were reported and nothing was done to address the sexual harassment issue or punish the perpetrator. Asides from legal costs, employers that ignore cases of sexual harassment pay the price in low morale, decreased productivity, increased absenteeism and health care costs.

One major step employers can take to prevent sexual harassment in the work place is for them to include a sexual harassment policy in their employee handbook. The sexual harassment policy should;

  • State clearly what amounts to sexual harassment.
  • Emphasize that it will not be tolerated.
  • Set out an easy procedure for making sexual harassment complaints including anonymous complaints.
  • Emphasize that workers who make complaints about sexual harassment will be protected from retaliation and victimization.
  • Set out the punishment for sexual harassment claims which are found to be true.

Employers should be ready to organize trainings on the signs, control and effects of sexual harassment during induction of new employees and other forms of continuous education to ensure that the employees are constantly aware that sexual harassment is a crime that will not be tolerated in the workplace.

It is also important that employers set up a mechanism to monitor the work environment for signs of sexual harassment so that any slight trace of sexual harassment can be nipped in the bud before it aggravates to sexual molestation.

#METOO AND INTERNAL INVESTIGATIONS

As expected, the #MeToo movement has started influencing the decisions of companies. CEOs and HRs are now being careful and have taken it upon themselves to not only examine their current sexual harassment policies to see if they fit into the new reality but also to reexamine settlement agreements and confidentiality agreements arising from harassment claims that have been deemed settled to ensure that such claims will not rear up their ugly heads later despite the confidentiality clauses. Summarily, internal sexual harassment audit and investigations are now being taken seriously.

The question on the minds of many CEOs however is who to be saddled with the responsibility of conducting these investigations in a way that will ensure fairness to both parties. It could be left in the hands of the Human Resources department but are these people not employees of the company who are obliged to protect the reputation of the company? How un-biased can their findings be?

Certainly, an investigation that will ensure fairness to both parties is more likely achieved when the investigator has no personal connection with either party to the investigation. It is also likely that the parties will see an external investigator as neutral and will be more open with information since they believe that they will be treated fairly. Employers as well will be more inclined to take recommendations from an independent investigator and make necessary changes in their company as opposed to taking recommendations from the employee of the company who might just be telling the employer what he wants to hear.

As a result of this, companies have identified the need to bring in external investigators who have the requisite training, experience and resources to conduct an impartial investigation while maintaining privilege and avoiding the consequences of a flawed investigation. They now bring in Law firms to carry out these investigations.

CONCLUSION

In the past, any complaint of improper behavior in the workplace would most likely be first lodged at the human resources department. Times have changed. As it is now, as a result of the awareness raised by the #MeToo movement, the public might even be made aware of a harassment issue before the company. In fact, a CEO might just get to know of a sexual harassment claim in the company from the morning news and by then, a lot of havoc could have been done to the company's reputation and credibility. Companies who intend to survive the #MeToo movement and its aftermath have to be proactive by ensuring that their sexual harassment policies are in tune with today's reality, they create a work environment that stifles sexual harassment and they carry out proper investigations that are fair and professionally conducted. The time is up!

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
 
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Mondaq Sign Up
Gain free access to lawyers expertise from more than 250 countries.
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Industry
Mondaq Newsalert
Select Topics
Select Regions
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions