43 Facebook content moderators in Kenya intend to sue the social media platform’s parent company Meta and two outsourcing companies for unfair dismissal.
The 43 worked under Sama, an outsourcing company that was hired by Meta to moderate Facebook content from Nairobi in 2019. At the start of the year, Sama informed its 260 content moderators at its Nairobi office that they were being laid off.
The announcement even as a former employee Daniel Motaung began legal proceedings against Meta and Sama for what he alleges was unfair dismissal for union organizing, among other claims.
Foxglove, a technology justice nonprofit that is supporting the lawsuit by the 43 Facebook moderators, said the company is not doing away with content moderation work but has rather switched to another outsourcing company Majorel, which currently handles TikTok’s moderation in Kenya.
In a statement, Foxglove said most of the moderators who lost their jobs unsuccessfully re-applied to vacant spots at Majorel for what appeared to be the same work, but paying less than Sama did.
Foxglove claims that Majorel’s recruiters said they were instructed not to hire any of the moderators who had just been laid off from Sama.
“The case brought today argues that the 260 moderators being fired—and denied future employment—are being punished for this and subsequent union organizing in violation of Kenyan law,” Foxglove said in a statement.
The content moderators will be filing a suit against Facebook, Sama and Majorel in the Employment and Labor Relations Court on the grounds that retaliating against employees who were seeking better work conditions is unlawful discrimination.
“This is a union-busting operation masquerading as a mass redundancy. You can’t just switch suppliers and tell recruiters not to hire your workers because they are ‘troublemakers’—that is, because they have the temerity to stand up for themselves,” Foxglove added.
The content moderators want the court to end the layoff process and ensure that the jobs of existing Sama workers are protected.
Further, they are seeking full compensation for the distress caused to workers and for Facebook, Sama and Majorel to formally acknowledge the right of moderators to organize.
In the Motaung suit, Meta argued that the Kenyan court has no jurisdiction because it is not based in Kenya. But a judge ruled last month that the company could still be sued in Kenya.