Remedies for workers injured by employer negligence
 
 
 
 
 
 
Protecting Employee & Consumer Rights

Remedies for workers injured by employer negligence

Selena Scola and several other workers worked at Facebook, Inc. as content moderators (hired from outside companies and classified as independent contractors). These content moderators are tasked everyday with reviewing and removing over ten million videos and images posted by Facebook users that violate Facebook’s terms of use. Moderators claim that every day they are exposed to videos, images, and livestreamed broadcasts of extreme and graphic violence such as child sexual abuse, rape, torture, bestiality, beheadings, suicide, and murder.

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As a result of constant exposure to highly toxic and extremely disturbing images while moderators do their work, they developed and suffered from psychological trauma and/or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Ironically, in 2006, Facebook, together with other tech companies, helped draft workplace safety standards to protect content moderators from workplace trauma and adverse consequences while doing their jobs. However, while other tech companies have implemented these safety standards, Facebook has not.  Instead, Facebook required its content moderators to work under conditions which caused and worsened psychological trauma.

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Scola, together with other content moderators, sued Facebook on behalf of themselves and all other content moderators. Scola claimed that as result of Facebook’s negligence, she sustained PTSD which is triggered when she touches a computer mouse, enters a cold building, watches violence on television, hears loud noises, is startled, or when she recalls or describes graphic imagery she was exposed to as a content moderator.

Other content moderators claimed injuries such as suffering from nightmares, hypervigilance around children, depression, a pervasive sense of helplessness, anxiety, flashbacks, depression, insomnia, social isolation, increased anger, frustration, unnecessary aggression, irritability, distrust of others, heightened stress response when listening to others discuss traumatic events, panic attacks, difficulty distinguishing fictional violence from reality, and difficulty maintaining healthy relationships with family and friends.

Facebook has retained approximately 15,000 content moderators around the world to review content. Most of these 15,000 content moderators are employed by third-party vendors of Facebook and are not Facebook employees. Most content moderators last less than one year in their position.

Under California law, employers are required to do everything reasonably necessary to protect the life, safety, and health of employees. Employers must establish, implement, and maintain an effective injury prevention program. They must provide and use safety devices and safeguards, and adopt and use methods and processes reasonably adequate to render the employment and place of employment safe. Employers must do everything reasonably necessary to protect the life, safety, and health of employees. An employer cannot require or permit any employee to be in any employment or place of employment which is not safe and healthful.

The content moderators claim that by ignoring established workplace safety standards, Facebook did not provide a safe working environment for them. Facebook repeatedly exposed its content moderators to materials known to cause psychological trauma and PTSD. The lawsuit claimed that Facebook refused to implement reasonable and adequate safety measures to reduce the risks associated with exposure to graphic content.

Rather than proceed to trial, the parties agreed to a settlement. Facebook will pay $52 million in damages. Class Members will receive an automatic payment that may be used for medical screening and general damages for their exposure to potentially traumatic material. In addition, Class Members may seek other payments for treatment of a qualifying diagnosis and other damages. Facebook also will implement significant reforms addressing its workplace practices in order to reduce the harmful effects of exposure to graphic or disturbing materials.

 

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The Law Offices of C. Joe Sayas, Jr. welcomes inquiries about this topic. All inquiries are confidential and at no-cost. You can contact the office at (818) 291-0088 or visit www.joesayaslaw.com. [For more than 25 years, C. Joe Sayas, Jr., Esq. successfully recovered wages and other monetary damages for thousands of employees and consumers. He was named Top Labor & Employment Attorney in California by the Daily Journal, consistently selected as Super Lawyer by the Los Angeles Magazine, and is a past Presidential Awardee for Outstanding Filipino Overseas.]

 

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TAGS: California law, employer negligence, employment remedies, workplace injuries
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