Court Blocks Meta From Firing Content Moderators In Kenya

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Court Blocks Meta From Firing Content Moderators In Kenya

A Kenyan court has blocked Meta from firing any of the 184 content moderators until the lawsuit against the company about “unlawful dismissal” is over.

These moderators were hired and managed by Sama, Facebook’s content review partner in Africa. Hence, when the dismissed employees filed a case against both Facebook and Sama, the social media giant tried to extract itself from the situation, claiming that they were not their employer; Sama was.

Meta is a client of Sama’s, and Sama is not legally empowered to act on behalf of Meta.Sama

But the court, on the other hand, ordered that Facebook is indeed their primary employer. In the words of Justice Byram Ongaya of Kenya’s employment and labor relations, Sama is “merely an agent…or manager.”

Sama has been Meta’s content review partner for a long time, and things were going smoothly until this March when Sama suddenly handed redundancy notices to 184 employees. The company claimed that it had parted ways with Meta.

However, the court is of the opinion that since it was Meta that assigned the work to those moderators, they were necessarily Meta’s responsibility. It’s not just about the work; these moderators also used Meta’s technology and worked according to the company’s performance metrics.

It’s clear that Meta had way more control over these employees than Sama. Hence, the redundancy notices issued by Sama have been rendered illegal in court.

Elaborating on this decision, the court explained that the right to assign work, provide a digital workspace for the assigned work, impose operational standards and evaluate performance all lies with the first and second responders.

The contract with these employees will be extended for as long as the case is still going on.

If you match these sets of rights with Meta’s relationship with those content moderators, it’s quite clear that the company (Meta Platforms Inc and Meta Platforms Ireland) acted as the first and second responder in this case.

On the other hand, Sama was just an agent, a third responder working on Meta’s behalf, overseeing the work. In a situation like this, the first and second responders can in no way excuse themselves as the applicants’ employer. In simple terms, there’s no scenario in which Meta is not the primary employer of those content moderators in Kenya.

Mental Health Care & More

In what seems like another win for the employees and a blow for Meta, the court pointed out that the work assigned to these moderators was dangerous and directed. Hence, it’s Meta’s responsibility to look after their medical, psychiatric, and psychological care.

This case opened up the doors to many similar job arrangements where the employees are hired by a large corporation through a small agency.

Meanwhile, the dismissed moderators are not only seeking reinstatement but have also demanded financial compensation for unlawful termination equal to their twelve months gross salary, plus Sh20 million each for violating their labor rights as well as Sh10 million for each employee in damages caused by their poor labor practices.

The court has asked local government agencies to oversee the status of the law and employees’ safety in virtual and digital workspaces so that no other employee gets treated unfairly again.

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Abraham
Expert tech and gaming writer, blending computer science expertise