A court in Nairobi has barred Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, from laying off its content moderation workforce pending the determination of a lawsuit that claims the planned termination is unlawful.
Justice Mathews Nderi Nduma of the Employment and Labour Relations Court also barred Meta and outsourcing company Samasource Kenya EPZ Limited from hiring other content moderators to do the work currently being done by those that were to be sacked.
Meta and Sama had planned to lay off the entire content moderation workforce in Nairobi as part of the social media firm’s strategy to restructure its tech and business groups.
The lawsuit was filed by 43 Facebook content moderators in Kenya hired by Sama on behalf of Meta. They allege that the redundancy exercise being undertaken was unlawful as it does not follow the strict procedure laid out under the country’s employment laws. The petitioners said that the exercise was also unlawful “because no genuine nor justifiable reason was given for the redundancy”.
The moderators have been given varying and confusing explanations for the redundancy, they told the court.
The petitioners and all the other content moderators had been issued with termination letters indicating that their employment contracts will be terminated effective March 31, 2023, on account of redundancy.
According to court papers, Meta went ahead to engage Majorel Kenya Limited to recruit new content moderators to replace those engaged through Sama.
At least 260 content moderators were set to lose their jobs.
But Justice Nduma 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.
“An interim injunction is granted restraining Meta and Sama from implementing in any manner whatsoever anything incidental to or related to the Redundancy Notice issued to Facebook Content Moderators (GPL 8 CO) on January 10, 2023 as read together with the Redundancy Notice issued on January 18, 2023,” reads the court order.
Further, the order stops Meta and Sama from engaging new content moderators to serve the Eastern and Southern African region through Majorel or any other agent. Additionally, the firms have been blocked from refusing to recruit qualified content moderators on grounds that they were previously engaged through the Sama.
Justice Nderi directed Meta and the outsourcing companies to respond to the application within seven days. The case will be mentioned on March 28, 2023.