At the office of Genpact, a Meta subcontractor, in Richardson, Texas, Spanish-speaking moderators told BuzzFeed News that they had to report to the office from April 2021, despite the appearance of Delta and Omicron variants that caused an increase in COVID infections. across the US Over this time, they said, moderators reviewing content in English have been allowed to tour the office in three-month rotations.
“Being in the office… has been nothing short of a nightmare,” said one moderator.
BuzzFeed News spoke with three members of Genpact’s so-called Mexican market team, who described a pattern of disparate treatment of Spanish-speaking moderators. All of these people spoke on condition of anonymity as Genpact requires them to sign confidentiality agreements and they feared for their jobs. They said that in addition to reporting to the office for the past nine months, while their English-speaking counterparts were able to work from home, Spanish-speaking moderators are held to unrealistic performance standards and are not compensated for working in two languages, which which they say is more time consuming. In addition, they face the pressures of running a Facebook marketplace that has long been criticized as unmoderated amid the threat of active COVID cases.
Genpact spokeswoman Danielle D’Angelo declined to comment on any specific claims made by the Spanish-language moderators, including the claim that their Mexican market team was not allowed to work from home while other teams rotated.
“We would like to emphasize that employee safety is our top priority and has been and will continue to be during the COVID-19 pandemic,” D’Angelo said. “Any decision to return to the office that is made according to the needs of the client is made with the best health and safety practices in force and in accordance with local regulations. At all of our workplaces, including our Richardson, TX office, we follow best-in-class safety standards, including frequent antigen testing.”
On Thursday, managers at Genpact’s Richardson site reportedly told company agents that it had scrapped plans to reopen at 50% capacity on January 31 due to the Omicron variant. The Spanish-speaking moderators said they are not affected by this change and will continue to report back to the office. Genpact declined to comment on when it intends to reopen and in what capacity.
In late June, Genpact leadership sent an email to one of the English-speaking moderation groups that were allowed to rotate out of the office, thanking them for their “continued dedication and responsiveness.” The email said they would return to work from home on July 26.
The Spanish moderators told BuzzFeed News that they received no such email. Days after English-speaking moderators were told they could go home, “[managers] they told us that we were a specialized queue and that our work could not be done outside the office,” said one moderator, noting that the Mexican market often involves moderating an avalanche of particularly graphic content. Facebook declined to comment on the complaints from its Spanish-language moderators and referred BuzzFeed News to Genpact, a strategy it has taken time and time again in addressing the concerns of people who make a living moderating Facebook content.
Since returning to Richardson’s office, employees have grown increasingly fearful for their safety. Moderators told BuzzFeed News that management informed staff of 30 COVID cases in December and no updates have been communicated since then. Meanwhile, workers say their colleagues continue to test positive for COVID, citing two cases in one flat last week. Genpact declined to comment on the number of COVID cases in its office or how often it reports these cases to staff.
On December 22, a dozen Spanish-speaking moderators walked out of the office en masse after hearing from rumors that a sick colleague might have exposed them to the virus. Since workers claim that Genpact does not currently offer its moderators paid sick leave, they used PTO to self-isolate. Genpact declined to comment on whether its moderators receive paid sick leave.
Despite being named for the Mexican market, this team also reviews Facebook and Instagram content posted in Spanish by users in most of Latin America, the moderators said. In 2018, there were 84 million Facebook users in Mexico, and tens of millions more used WhatsApp. In Latino and Spanish-speaking communities, Facebook has been a powerful vector of misinformation, shaping the public’s perception of topics like COVID, electoral politics, and Black Lives Matter. But researchers studying misinformation told The Guardian that, compared to posts in English, harmful content posted in Spanish is removed less frequently.