Facebook Inc. reached a proposed $52 million class action settlement with content moderators over claims the company did not properly support the employees, whose job it was to sift through the most disturbing content on the social media platform.
Not only will each class member receive a $1,000 payout for medical screening, but Facebook will also retain licensed mental health clinicians available to Facebook content moderators throughout their shifts, according to the plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary approval of the settlement filed Tuesday in San Mateo Superior Court.
“We are grateful to the people who do this important work to make Facebook a safe environment for everyone,” a Facebook spokesperson said in an email. “We’re committed to providing them additional support through this settlement and in the future.”
Joseph Saveri Law Firm in San Francisco, Burns Charest in Dallas and New Orleans, and the Law Office of William Most in New Orleans brokered the deal on behalf of plaintiffs in California, Texas, Florida and Arizona—subcontractors who performed content moderation work dating back to September 2015.
Class members could also be eligible for up to $50,000 for additional damages if they’re diagnosed with qualifying diagnoses, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
Besides clinicians, Facebook content moderators will also have access to weekly, one-on-one and group mental health coaching under the terms of the settlement. As part of the recruiting and hiring process, potential content moderators will also go through resiliency prescreening and assessments.
Daniel Charest of Burns Charest said everything about the injunctive relief process for this case was unique. “When you’re trying to fashion a program that’s going to provide for workers’ mental health in the first-in-class settlement, it took a lot of work and back-and-forth between plaintiffs and Facebook. We’ve been negotiating the injunctive relief for months.”
Charest said the detailed and science-driven approach was both collaborative and adversarial. One thing that pushed the process forward was that both Facebook and plaintiffs’ mental health experts knew each other and had prior experience together. “That helped the communication,” he said.
The settlement also sets the minimum for how companies that “use human beings for filters on how they should be acting,” he said.
On both sides, lawyers told more junior team members that this is the type of case they’ll remember having worked on throughout their careers.
“I’ve never been involved in a protracted negotiation of this magnitude, and I’m proud of the result,” he said. “This is achieving a socially good result, and that’s something you don’t always get to do in commercial litigation.”