Kenyan court bars Meta from sacking content moderators, engaging new partner
A Kenyan court has issued an emergency order blocking Facebook parent company Meta and its content moderating partner Sama from laying off its entire workforce at the latter’s Nairobi office.
This follows a lawsuit filed on March 17 by 43 moderators at Facebook’s Nairobi moderation hub, who sued the social media giant and its outsourcers for sacking the entire workforce and blacklisting the laid-off workers.
The interim order bars Facebook or Sama from firing the workers pending a March 28 hearing to determine the legality of the redundancy.
It also stops Meta, which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, from switching suppliers to Majorel because the case argues that the switch is being carried out in a discriminatory way.
Justice Mathews Nduma of the Employment and Labour Relations Court certified the suit as urgent and authorised the petitioners to furnish Meta with the court papers electronically at their head offices in the United States and Ireland.
The order also blocks the companies from refusing to recruit qualified content moderators on grounds that they were previously engaged with Sama.
The outgoing moderators accuse the companies of operating a ‘blacklist’ of all ex-Sama moderators as punishment for organising.
Sama moderators who applied for the “new” positions with Majorel say they were unsuccessful, despite their expertise and experience.
The court was told there were messages between moderators and Majorel’s recruiters, instructing them not to hire any moderators previously employed by Sama.
Justice Nduma directed Meta and the outsourcing companies to respond to the application within seven days.
Sama has run the Naiobi office since 2019 and announced in January that it was laying off all 260 content moderators working the hub.
Last month, Meta filed an appeal in Kenya challenging a ruling which said it could be sued in a separate lawsuit brought by a moderator over alleged poor working conditions, even though it has no official presence in the country.
Judge Jacob Gakeri had on February 6 declined to strike out Meta from the case filed by former Facebook moderator Daniel Motaung, who had sued the tech giant over a toxic work environment.
Majorel handles moderation for the Chinese video-sharing platform TikTok in Kenya.
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