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Lawyers tasked on workplace sexual harassment

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Experts have urged lawyers to help in tackling discriminations including sexual harassment and ill treatment of workers by employers in work places.

Speaking at the Business Law Session of the Nigerian Bar Association annual seminar themed, realities of today’s world of work, the President, National Industrial Court of Nigeria, Justice Benedict Kanyip, stated that sexual harassment in workplaces is more prevalent than generally acknowledged. Kanyip described sexual harassment as a gender-based discrimination that undermines equality of opportunity and treatment at work places.

“It calls into question individual integrity and impairs productivity. At the end of the day, sexual harassment is a function of power and it is not only targeted at women but also the male folks”, he said. Stressing that there are plethora of new international laws specifically prohibiting sexual harassment in the work place, he added that it is the courts’ interpretations that have given reality to the concept as an unacceptable practice in employment. Kanyip explained that other forms of discriminations practiced in workplaces are based on nationality, colour, race, age, social group, religion and ethnic group, and expressed worries that most Nigerians also face the above mentioned in other countries.

Meanwhile, the Chairman of Employment, Labour and Industrial Relations Committee, Ose Okpeku, stated that the present day workplace has engendered the identity crisis of labour law.In a panel discussion moderated by the Legal Director, Nigerian Breweries, Uaboi Agbebaku on the topic, ‘Outsourcing and Triangular Employment Relationship, the Head of Julius Berger’s Legal Services, Ugochi Nnadika, held that globalization brought both prosperity and inequalities that are testing the limits of collective social responsibility.

“In many countries, increased global competition has led to job losses in particular industries and communities. In many developing nations like Nigeria, without system of unemployment insurance to workers, the social pain of globalization and labour market development is serious”, Nnadike stated.

She added that one of the changes brought by globalization is outsourcing and triangular employment relationship.“Though these organizations that got staff through outsourcing try to exempt themselves from the ill-treatment of employees, the court most times, accuse them of abating,” she said.She therefore urged firms involved in outsourcing to be very cautious of organizations they contract with.

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