Hundreds of Facebook contractors who were ordered to return to the company’s Mountain View campus this month amid an unprecedented spike in COVID-19 cases were told today that they can continue working from home, an abrupt reversal of a company mandate.
Following a BuzzFeed News inquiry, Accenture, a subcontractor that manages content moderation for Facebook, walked back its late December demand that moderators return to work in Mountain View on Jan. 24. The policy change was set against a backdrop of worker dissent as contractors openly questioned why they had to report to the office when full-time Facebook employees could defer their return by several months. Multiple moderators threatened to resign if health exemptions continued to be denied for vulnerable contractors.
Contractors were told verbally on Wednesday morning that the return to work was being delayed.
In response to a detailed list of questions, a spokesperson said that given current health data “we have let our team members working from home know they should continue to do so.”
“We work collaboratively with our people on individual accommodations, including work from home, in compliance with all applicable employment laws and local regulations,” the spokesperson added.
In a late December staff call, Accenture told a team of hundreds embedded at one of the social network’s California headquarters that they must return to the office on Jan. 24. Employees who subsequently requested special consideration for being immunocompromised or protecting vulnerable family members were not given exemptions. “Once the return to office is complete for Meta, there, unfortunately, will not be work that can be done from home on this project,” those who inquired were told in a boilerplate email. The announcement came just weeks after Facebook’s parent company, Meta, told full-time employees that they could defer their return to work for three to five months amid a flurry of similar actions by companies like Google and Apple.
Accenture’s return-to-office mandate would have affected a building of roughly 400 people tasked with reviewing and flagging for removal the worst of what’s posted to Facebook. Some said the decision underscored the lesser treatment of Facebook contractors.
“It’s unconscionable and I’m just sick of it,” one contractor told BuzzFeed News, speaking on the condition of anonymity as they are forbidden from speaking publicly about Facebook or Accenture matters.News Source: BuzzFeed News