This International Workers’ Day, the Lowenstein Center for the Public Interest is proud to launch “A Guide to Workers’ Rights in Nigeria,” in partnership with the Thomson Reuters Foundation's global pro bono legal service, TrustLaw. Lowenstein lawyers prepared the comprehensive guide at the request of two Nigerian civil society organizations (CSOs), Children and Young People Living for Peace (CYPLP) and the International Society for Peace and Safety (ISOPS), which were connected to the firm by TrustLaw.

The guide examines the legal framework governing labor rights in Nigeria, including national, international, and regional human rights laws, as well as international labor laws. Lawyers in Nigeria will use the guide to provide legal consultations and representation to workers across the country. Lowenstein lawyers also prepared a companion plain language ‘Know Your Rights’ guide that the CSOs will distribute to workers and employers across the country to raise awareness of workers’ rights and employers’ duties under Nigerian law.

The impetus for the guide was the CSOs’ desire to use the law to address high rates of poverty and casualization of workers in Nigeria. According to Dennis Ekwere, Executive Director of CYPLP, “Employers often fail to give workers contracts, or misclassify workers as contractors rather than employees to avoid financial obligations. Many workers do not understand their rights under Nigerian law or are afraid to raise rights violations with their employers for fear of losing their jobs and falling deeper into poverty. We are grateful to Lowenstein Sandler and TrustLaw for creating a resource that can be used by lawyers and the public alike to bridge the knowledge gap.”

On April 19, lawyers from Lowenstein facilitated a one-day capacity-building workshop entitled “Strengthening Access to Justice for Nigerian Workers and the Role of Pro Bono Lawyers, CSOs and the Media.” The workshop, convened by CYPLP and ISOPS, was sponsored by the local law firm Fred-Young & Evans.  It drew dozens of pro bono lawyers from three states in Nigeria and was also attended by members of the Ministry of Justice, Public Complaints Commission, Legal Aid Council of Nigeria, and the media. Similar workshops are being planned for other regions of Nigeria.  

According to Lowenstein public interest counsel Christina Holder, “It has been an honor to work with our local partners and TrustLaw to support access to justice for workers in Nigeria. We hope that this resource, along with access to pro bono attorneys trained on the relevant labor protections, will empower workers to interact with their employers on more equal footing and ultimately improve workers’ livelihoods.”

Carolina Henriquez-Schmitz, Director of TrustLaw, added, “Since 2010, TrustLaw has facilitated free legal support, research and resources for NGOs and social enterprises, enabling them to advance their missions for social change. As part of the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s work to foster more responsible business practices and improve access to the law, we were pleased to facilitate this comprehensive research which will help ISOPS and CYPLP to continue their work to build understanding and awareness of labor laws in Nigeria.”

The Lowenstein Center for the Public Interest provides legal support for social enterprises, nonprofits, and individuals and has dedicated more than 343,182 hours to pro bono work firmwide over the past 15 years. Its support of nonprofit and social enterprise clients across Africa has grown in the past few years parallel to the launch of the firm’s Africa practice.

For over a decade, TrustLaw has helped transform the pro bono landscape: expanding access to legal support for NGOs and social enterprises at the frontlines of social change and working with law firms and in-house legal departments to develop and strengthen their pro bono practices. TrustLaw has grown to become the world’s largest global pro bono network, and this year celebrated facilitating over 10,000 connections between the world’s leading legal teams and high-impact organizations.

Mission of The Lowenstein Center for the Public Interest

From its founding, Lowenstein Sandler has been committed to advancing the public interest and serving communities in need. The Lowenstein Center for the Public Interest embodies this commitment, directing the firm’s strong pro bono program and other forms of civic and philanthropic engagement. Through these efforts, the center addresses significant social problems and offers meaningful assistance to low-income and other marginalized people, along with the organizations that advocate for and support them. This work engages the full range of the firm’s talents and reflects the core values that imbue all of the firm’s efforts: to perform work of the highest quality in a manner that maximizes results for our clients and causes.

About Lowenstein Sandler LLP 
Lowenstein Sandler LLP is a national law firm with over 350 lawyers based in New York, Palo Alto, New Jersey, Utah, and Washington, D.C. The firm represents leaders in virtually every sector of the global economy, with particular emphasis on investment funds, life sciences, and technology. Recognized for its entrepreneurial spirit and high standard of client service, the firm is committed to the interests of its clients, colleagues, and communities. 

About the Thomson Reuters Foundation
The Thomson Reuters Foundation is the corporate foundation of Thomson Reuters, the global news and information services company. The Foundation works to advance media freedom, raise awareness of human rights issues, and foster more inclusive economies. Through news, media development, free legal assistance, and convening initiatives, the Foundation combine its unique services to drive systemic change. Its mission is to inspire collective leadership, empowering people to shape free, fair, and informed societies.

TrustLaw is the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s global pro bono legal programme, connecting high-impact NGOs and social enterprises working to create social and environmental change with the best law firms and corporate legal teams to provide them with free legal assistance in order to produce ground-breaking legal research and offer innovative training courses worldwide.