Court orders Facebook's partner Sama to continue paying moderators


Meta and Facebook logos. FILE PHOTO | AFP

The Employment and Labour Relations court on Thursday ordered outsourcing firm Samasource (Sama) to continue paying Facebook content moderators, pending the determination of a petition the more than 180 workers have filed, challenging their layoffs.

Judge Byram Ongaya has directed the firm to pay the moderators at their current terms and benefits, pending further directions from the court.

The moderators, who have also sued Facebook owner- Meta Platforms Inc and Meta Platforms Ireland Limited - said their employer has refused to pay them their monthly salaries, a move that has left them destitute as most do not have any relatives or family in Kenya.

The employees are from various countries in Africa and were engaged as Facebook content moderators at the Content Moderation Centre in Nairobi, which serves the larger Eastern and Southern African Region.

“For the avoidance of doubt, the order given on March 20 is in place until further orders of the court or until the determination of the case,” Justice Ongaya said.

The Facebook moderators moved to court in March and blocked their termination but Meta challenged the case arguing that Kenyan courts do not have jurisdiction to determine a case brought against foreign entities.

The court heard that their contracts came to an end on March 31, 2023, and their employer initiated a redundancy process.

Their lawyer Mercy Mutemi told the court that the employer was blocked from terminating their contracts or giving the content moderators’ jobs to another party.

The content moderators claimed Meta terminated the contract and was planning to hire new people through Majorel Kenya Ltd.

Senior counsel Fred Ojiambo told the court that since the court was to determine whether the moderators were employed by Meta or not, the multinational should not be compelled to pay the workers.

The court directed the applications to be heard on May 25, 2023.

The employees said they worked for Sama, which was contracted by Meta, to work in Kenya as moderators.

“Terminating the contracts of the Petitioners in this manner is gravely prejudicial considering there is a live Petition before this Honourable Court challenging the termination of contracts and the interim orders subsisting,” Ms Mutemi said in the petition.

The judge had earlier granted the content moderators, most of whom are foreigners, orders preserving their immigration status, allowing them to remain in Kenya lawfully.

“That pending the inter-partes hearing or further orders by the Court, orders are hereby granted preserving the immigration status of foreign petitioners herein being Facebook content moderators and allowing them to remain in Kenya lawfully,” the judge said.

They want the court to declare the termination unlawful and order their reinstatement.

They are also seeking compensation for unfair termination of employment equivalent to twelve months gross salary, damages amounting to Sh10 million per moderator for unfair labour practices and a further Sh20 million each, for violation of their rights.

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