March 21, 2023

Illegal Layoffs And Backlisting: Meta And Partners Sued In Kenya, Again mobile page on a mobile Safari browser

Tech giant Meta is being sued by content moderators in Kenya, again.

On Monday, 43 content moderators filed a lawsuit accusing Facebook’s parent company and two subcontractors, Sama and Majorel of ‘unlawful redundancy’ and discriminatory hiring practices.

Meta had contracted Kenya-based firm Sama to moderate Facebook content in eastern and southern Africa. However, Sama closed its content moderation arm in January and announced it would be laying off 260 content moderators when its contract with Meta ends on March 31. 

The suit claims that redundancy notices were not issued and that Meta and Sama did not provide the moderators with a 30-day termination notice as is required by Kenyan law. Moreover, it alleges that their terminal dues were dependent on their signing of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs).

“If your profile has Sama on it, you will never be considered, no matter how qualified or good you are at what you do.”

The suit also names Meta’s new Luxembourg-based content moderation partner, Majorel, in the suit. Majorel is accused of discriminatory hiring practices – blacklisting former Sama employees. 

“There are rumors that Majorel is saying they are trying to avoid ‘troubles,'” a former Sama worker, who is part of the suit, told WIRED. 

“If your profile has Sama on it, you will never be considered, no matter how qualified or good you are at what you do.”

Redundancy or Union busting?

“This is a union-busting operation masquerading as a mass redundancy,” says Cori Crider, a director at Foxglove Legal, the UK-based non-profit supporting the suit alongside Kenyan law firm Nzili and Sumbi Advocates.

“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.”

Sama denies claims of breaking Kenyan law, stating it “communicated the decision to discontinue content moderation in a town hall, followed by an email and notification letter” and denies it is withholding any lawfully owed compensation.

Third time’s the charm?

This is not the first, nor second, time Meta has been sued in Kenya for its content moderation.

Last year, Meta and Sama were sued in East Africa for union busting and exploitation in an explosive legal case launched by former Facebook content moderator Daniel Motaung.

Daniel Motaung is a Facebook moderator in Kenya who explosively launched a legal case against the tech giant and its outsourcing company Sama
Daniel Motaung

A second suit was filed in December 2022, this time by Ethiopians who accused Meta of not putting enough safety moderation measures on Facebook. According to the lawsuit, the social site amplified hateful content that led to the death of 500,000 Ethiopians during the Tigray War. 

Then in January, a TIME investigation exposed the horrendous conditions many Kenyan Sama employees had been subject to while moderating OpenAI content.

This latest lawsuit requests full compensation for the distress caused and for Meta Sama and Majorel to formally acknowledge the right of moderators to organize. They also call for the Kenyan court to end the layoff process and protect existing Sama employees’ jobs. 

The hearing is set for March 28. Until then, the Kenyan court has banned Meta from engaging with Majorel.

Samara Linton

Community Manager at POCIT | Co-editor of The Colour of Madness: Mental Health and Race in Technicolour (2022), and co-author of Diane Abbott: The Authorised Biography (2020)