Facebook owner Meta blocked from firing content moderators

BDMeta

A gavel and logo of Facebook owner Meta. The giant social media firm has suffered a blow after the Court of Appeal declined to suspend a case filed by more than 180 Facebook content moderators, pending the determination of a petition challenging Kenyan courts from handling the suit. FILE PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

Facebook owner Meta has been blocked from firing more than 180  content moderators until a case challenging their dismissal is determined.

On Friday, Employment and Labour Relations Court judge Byram Ongaya directed Meta to put redundancies announced by its former agent Samasource Kenya EPZ Ltd (Sama) on hold.

The content moderators rushed to court in March after they were served redundancy notices by Sama, which alleged it had parted ways with the Facebook parent company.

But in a ruling on Friday, Justice Ongaya ruled that Meta Platforms Inc and Meta Platforms Ireland Ltd are the primary employers of the content moderators operating from Nairobi.

The judge said the redundancy notices were unlawful because Meta had issued the content moderation work. The court said the contracts should be extended until the case is concluded.

“The respondents are hereby restrained from terminating the contract of the content moderators, pending the hearing and determination of the petition. The respondents are also restrained from varying the content moderators’ contractual terms in a manner unfavourable to the applicants,” the judge said.

The employees initially worked for Samasource Kenya EPZ (Sama), which Facebook owner Meta Platforms Inc and Meta Platforms Ireland Limited contracted.

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

The moderators claimed Meta terminated their contracts and was planning to hire new people through Majorel Kenya Ltd.

Mental health

In a further win for the employees, the judge said that, from the material on record, the work they perform is inherently hazardous and directed Meta to ensure that medical, psychiatric and psychological care for them is put in place.

He also directed the government agencies to review the status of the law and employees’ safety in virtual and digital workspaces, noting areas for improvement and report to the court regarding the extent of improvement to ensure workers in such spaces are protected.

Justice Ongaya also directed the government to regularise their immigration status so that they could continue working in the country.

The 183 petitioners 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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