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Meta says it left its Mountain View offices to build a 'best-in-class remote work experience.' Current employees beg to differ

The Meta sign at 1 Hacker Way in Menlo Park on Oct. 28, 2021. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Earlier this year, Meta terminated its lease at the San Antonio Center office buildings in Mountain View, pointing to the company’s goal to build “a best-in-class remote work experience” as a reason for vacating the space. But according to two Meta content moderators, the people who worked at the Mountain View office are now required to work in person at the tech behemoth’s Fremont campus.

John, a content moderator, is an Accenture employee who is contracted to work on Meta’s Trust and Safety team — and he said this isn’t the first time that contracted and full-time employees received different treatment at Meta during the pandemic. The Voice agreed to use a pseudonym for John over his fears of retaliation from his employer.

When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, “the whole company went into lockdown, but the content moderators were not allowed to go into lockdown,” John said. “Many people were actually taking time off, their own PTO time off, in order to be at home and be out of the office and at less risk.”

The Intercept published a March 12, 2020 article revealing that content moderators and other contracted employees at Facebook offices across the country – including the San Antonio Center office in Mountain View – were required to work in person, while full-time employees were sent home.

Soon after, the company changed its policy, John said. A March 18, 2020 article from the BBC reported that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company would allow its third-party U.S. content moderators to work from home.

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“Facebook sent out an email to the contract companies and said, ‘Send all your vendors home,’” John told the Voice.

Contracted employees were asked to return to Meta’s Mountain View office in mid-2021, according to John.

“The reasoning that we’ve been given by Facebook and by our contract company, Accenture, is that the material that we see is too sensitive to be viewed at home, or away from the office,” John said. “Which a lot of us push back against, because it’s the same material that we were viewing when we were working from home, and that didn’t seem to be a problem back then.”

Ryan, another content moderator contracted by Meta, said he finds it unfair that contract employees were required to return to the office while full time Meta employees continue to have the option to work from home. With the majority of his work done on a laptop, Ryan, who also asked to use a pseudonym over retaliation fears, said being asked to return to the office was frustrating.

“We were being productive being at home, and it was really assisting us in our personal lives because we had time back for ourselves, not having to worry about commute, traffic and all that,” Ryan said. “I did feel that was unfair.”

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When asked why content moderators are required to work in person, Meta did not directly address the question. A Meta representative said, “Our remote work policy has not changed, anyone who is able to do their job from home can apply for remote work.”

But according to both John and Ryan, with Meta’s lease termination at the Mountain View offices earlier this year, those who worked there are now required to work in-person at Meta’s Fremont office.

“I’ve gone from having like a 10- to 15-minute commute to having a 45-minute commute,” said John, who lives in Santa Clara. “... I know a lot of people who just quit their jobs and went to find something else.”

When directly asked, Meta would not confirm or deny whether employees who worked in the Mountain View offices are now required to work in Fremont.

When the Voice asked Meta for comment on why the company was leaving its Mountain View office space, a company representative said, “Our aim is to build a best-in-class remote work experience to help everyone do the best work of their careers no matter where they are.”

But for contracted employees like John, “It’s become a laughing joke to the people in my office whenever Meta says that.”

“Mark Zuckerberg has famously said, ‘The future of work is going to be at home,’ and that’s their whole platform for the Oculus that they’re trying to push all the time,” John said. “And here we are, sitting in the office. … It’s just kind of laughable at this point.”

Content moderation has long been documented as one of the most emotionally grueling positions in tech, with employees tasked with parsing through disturbing content for hours at a time. In 2021, Facebook reached a settlement worth $85 million with more than 10,000 content moderators who had accused the company of failing to protect them from the psychological trauma of their work, Reuters reported at the time.

The settlement, which was approved by Superior Court Judge Raymond Swope in Redwood City, according to Reuters, included the creation of a $52 million fund for ongoing mental health treatment for content moderators. Those mental health resources have been helpful, John said.

“If you see something that is upsetting to you emotionally or mentally, you can sit down and schedule an appointment to talk with these wellness coaches that will really help you get through the day or figure out a plan of how to best take care of you,” he said.

But, John continued, “it loses its juice when those wellness coaches are actually at home themselves.”

“So in order for me to sit down with a wellness coach, I would need to go and schedule a meeting room and then get into the meeting room, set up a video call and have the video call,” he said. “I can do the same thing in my house.”

Ryan said that while he appreciates the mental health resources Meta provides, having the option to work from home would be a big boost to his mental health.

“I have a small home gym. There would be times where, during the time I was working at home, if I did see something that was disturbing, sometimes I would just go out to do a quick rep,” Ryan said. “We don’t have access to the gym that’s on the Fremont campus, it’s only for the full-time employees.”

And with COVID-19 still infecting people, Ryan said working from the office and increasing his chances of exposure is nerve wracking.

“It seems like every other week there’s someone that contracts coronavirus in our building,” Ryan said. “You have to wear a mask the entire time. I feel that if they really wanted to squash that, they should allow us to work from home for, say, a week, two weeks (when someone tests positive).”

At the very least, Ryan said, a more flexible, hybrid model would ease his nerves about being exposed to the virus.

“I think that would also help alleviate the concern, because you’re decreasing the people in the building, therefore decreasing the odds that the coronavirus would spread,” Ryan said.

Being forced to work in person, he said, “doesn’t feel like a logical way to try to handle this.”

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Malea Martin
Malea Martin covers the city hall beat in Mountain View. Before joining the Mountain View Voice in 2022, she covered local politics and education for New Times San Luis Obispo, a weekly newspaper on the Central Coast of California. Read more >>

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Meta says it left its Mountain View offices to build a 'best-in-class remote work experience.' Current employees beg to differ

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Tue, Nov 29, 2022, 11:11 am

Earlier this year, Meta terminated its lease at the San Antonio Center office buildings in Mountain View, pointing to the company’s goal to build “a best-in-class remote work experience” as a reason for vacating the space. But according to two Meta content moderators, the people who worked at the Mountain View office are now required to work in person at the tech behemoth’s Fremont campus.

John, a content moderator, is an Accenture employee who is contracted to work on Meta’s Trust and Safety team — and he said this isn’t the first time that contracted and full-time employees received different treatment at Meta during the pandemic. The Voice agreed to use a pseudonym for John over his fears of retaliation from his employer.

When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, “the whole company went into lockdown, but the content moderators were not allowed to go into lockdown,” John said. “Many people were actually taking time off, their own PTO time off, in order to be at home and be out of the office and at less risk.”

The Intercept published a March 12, 2020 article revealing that content moderators and other contracted employees at Facebook offices across the country – including the San Antonio Center office in Mountain View – were required to work in person, while full-time employees were sent home.

Soon after, the company changed its policy, John said. A March 18, 2020 article from the BBC reported that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company would allow its third-party U.S. content moderators to work from home.

“Facebook sent out an email to the contract companies and said, ‘Send all your vendors home,’” John told the Voice.

Contracted employees were asked to return to Meta’s Mountain View office in mid-2021, according to John.

“The reasoning that we’ve been given by Facebook and by our contract company, Accenture, is that the material that we see is too sensitive to be viewed at home, or away from the office,” John said. “Which a lot of us push back against, because it’s the same material that we were viewing when we were working from home, and that didn’t seem to be a problem back then.”

Ryan, another content moderator contracted by Meta, said he finds it unfair that contract employees were required to return to the office while full time Meta employees continue to have the option to work from home. With the majority of his work done on a laptop, Ryan, who also asked to use a pseudonym over retaliation fears, said being asked to return to the office was frustrating.

“We were being productive being at home, and it was really assisting us in our personal lives because we had time back for ourselves, not having to worry about commute, traffic and all that,” Ryan said. “I did feel that was unfair.”

When asked why content moderators are required to work in person, Meta did not directly address the question. A Meta representative said, “Our remote work policy has not changed, anyone who is able to do their job from home can apply for remote work.”

But according to both John and Ryan, with Meta’s lease termination at the Mountain View offices earlier this year, those who worked there are now required to work in-person at Meta’s Fremont office.

“I’ve gone from having like a 10- to 15-minute commute to having a 45-minute commute,” said John, who lives in Santa Clara. “... I know a lot of people who just quit their jobs and went to find something else.”

When directly asked, Meta would not confirm or deny whether employees who worked in the Mountain View offices are now required to work in Fremont.

When the Voice asked Meta for comment on why the company was leaving its Mountain View office space, a company representative said, “Our aim is to build a best-in-class remote work experience to help everyone do the best work of their careers no matter where they are.”

But for contracted employees like John, “It’s become a laughing joke to the people in my office whenever Meta says that.”

“Mark Zuckerberg has famously said, ‘The future of work is going to be at home,’ and that’s their whole platform for the Oculus that they’re trying to push all the time,” John said. “And here we are, sitting in the office. … It’s just kind of laughable at this point.”

Content moderation has long been documented as one of the most emotionally grueling positions in tech, with employees tasked with parsing through disturbing content for hours at a time. In 2021, Facebook reached a settlement worth $85 million with more than 10,000 content moderators who had accused the company of failing to protect them from the psychological trauma of their work, Reuters reported at the time.

The settlement, which was approved by Superior Court Judge Raymond Swope in Redwood City, according to Reuters, included the creation of a $52 million fund for ongoing mental health treatment for content moderators. Those mental health resources have been helpful, John said.

“If you see something that is upsetting to you emotionally or mentally, you can sit down and schedule an appointment to talk with these wellness coaches that will really help you get through the day or figure out a plan of how to best take care of you,” he said.

But, John continued, “it loses its juice when those wellness coaches are actually at home themselves.”

“So in order for me to sit down with a wellness coach, I would need to go and schedule a meeting room and then get into the meeting room, set up a video call and have the video call,” he said. “I can do the same thing in my house.”

Ryan said that while he appreciates the mental health resources Meta provides, having the option to work from home would be a big boost to his mental health.

“I have a small home gym. There would be times where, during the time I was working at home, if I did see something that was disturbing, sometimes I would just go out to do a quick rep,” Ryan said. “We don’t have access to the gym that’s on the Fremont campus, it’s only for the full-time employees.”

And with COVID-19 still infecting people, Ryan said working from the office and increasing his chances of exposure is nerve wracking.

“It seems like every other week there’s someone that contracts coronavirus in our building,” Ryan said. “You have to wear a mask the entire time. I feel that if they really wanted to squash that, they should allow us to work from home for, say, a week, two weeks (when someone tests positive).”

At the very least, Ryan said, a more flexible, hybrid model would ease his nerves about being exposed to the virus.

“I think that would also help alleviate the concern, because you’re decreasing the people in the building, therefore decreasing the odds that the coronavirus would spread,” Ryan said.

Being forced to work in person, he said, “doesn’t feel like a logical way to try to handle this.”

Comments

JAFO
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Nov 29, 2022 at 9:28 pm
JAFO, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Nov 29, 2022 at 9:28 pm

Just an Observation,

Current news is indicating that almost every 2 weeks nearly 1000 new job losses are occurring in the SF and Santa Clara County area. This pattern seems to be having a local impact on the real estate market. More homes are being sold and a lot of people are leaving apartments in Mountain View.

My apartment saw 4 units have people leave, and I have seen 3 houses sold on Centre Street and another just got a sign on Calderon. To me it definitely looks like there is a surge in people leaving Mountain View.

The increasing loss of demand in this area is going to hit it very hard, I can see that the kind of future in Mountain view is VERY different than many think it will be. I kind of said to the City Council in Jan 2020 that Covid and AB5 was going to make a major change in the city, it was not going to be just a 30-90 day change. And it looks like my observations have proven correct.

According to Zumper the rents are still at the same rate as it was in 2016 or earlier, clearly not recovered from the current economic reality. Another resource indicates that only 15 sales of homes took place in the city in October a drop of 34%. Some research indicates almost 100 homes are for sale at this time. And i can see that many homes sold after significant price cuts.

The city needs to publicly address the trends and provide the city transparent status reports so the city can be ready for what will happen in the next year.


Tal Shaya
Registered user
Rengstorff Park
on Nov 30, 2022 at 9:35 am
Tal Shaya, Rengstorff Park
Registered user
on Nov 30, 2022 at 9:35 am

I am laid off too so I don't want to seem unsympathetic. Working from home is great but the bottom line is that contract workers don't get to tell Facebook how to run the company. Nor are they in a position to complain about lack of perks. The job of content moderator does not require any special skill. There will be fewer jobs at less pay for everyone. I also see crime and poverty rising in Mountain View.


JAFO
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Nov 30, 2022 at 11:57 am
JAFO, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Nov 30, 2022 at 11:57 am

Just an Observation,

Since Twitter has dropped all moderation of the service, Apple has to drop them because without moderators the Section 230 protection from lawsuits is lost.

And if Meta continues what it is doing, they will likely be in the same position.

And Alphabet is likely going to have to drop Twitter and Meta too.

Remember these platforms are PRIVATE, meaning no business has any constitutional protection to be on them.

Content moderators are not unskilled workers too. They have to scour all information and find reputable resources to determine whether comments made are misinformation or worse.

I think that also since AB5 is in effect, if you are a content moderator, you cannot be a contractor. Because you are controlling assets that belong to the company, following rules set by the company, doing work in the services of the type the company provides. I strongly suspect this layoff had nothing to do with contractors rights.

It was a false reasoning stated by Meta to avoid possibly waking up the state from pursuing violations of AB5.

As a person with an HRM degree, I noticed this many years ago. The facts are contractors cannot do this work anymore.

That is why also Twitter just dumped so many workers.


LongResident
Registered user
another community
on Nov 30, 2022 at 3:00 pm
LongResident, another community
Registered user
on Nov 30, 2022 at 3:00 pm

The article makes a wrong assumption that Meta lied about remote work. What could have happened is that employees in Fremont are now working from home, freeing up space for the Mountain View operation to work on site at that location. Bottom line is they are also having complete layoffs, where people don't work for Meta any more at all. But they could still be letting more of those remaining work remotely, even if not the content monitoring group once located at San Antonio Center.

They might also change their contractors, because with more available workers, there could be job shops that can staff up at less cost than an Accenture contract! They might want workers on site because they are about to switch contractors.


JAFO
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Nov 30, 2022 at 5:37 pm
JAFO, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Nov 30, 2022 at 5:37 pm

Just an Observation,

LongResident, you are not understanding that AB5 makes it illegal for anyone to be an IT contractor for any business unless the contractor themselves owns the computers, the software, the networks,, and the domain names of the company.

To me, the idea that a corporation would publish a false rationale regarding this situation is because if they say the truth, they admit to violating AB5 and the state would be on them in a New York second.

Contractors are DEAD in CA. Unless AB5 is repealed. That is NOT going to happen. Unfortunately, the state allowed the violation of independent contractor/employee legal standards to prevent the eventual costs of compliance. But NOW there is no way around it.

Just like Google/Alphabets promises regarding housing, tech employment is nothing but wishful thinking.


LongResident
Registered user
another community
on Nov 30, 2022 at 6:01 pm
LongResident, another community
Registered user
on Nov 30, 2022 at 6:01 pm

Accenture is a contractor just not an individual contract worker. They are fully legal and the article mentions them as being at least one of the contracting companies moved to work In Fremont. .. just an observation.


JAFO
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Nov 30, 2022 at 7:03 pm
JAFO, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Nov 30, 2022 at 7:03 pm

Just an Observation,

LongResident, are you seriously expecting a company like Meta to outsource their ENTIRE infrastructure, given that the websites are directly connected with a revenue stream. Stockholders would be dropping them like a bad habit if they were aware of this, right? Oh yes, Meta stock has dropped like a rock actually. it is 50% of what it was Jan 1.

Any failure of Meta to operate for just a few seconds costs millions of dollars. Talking as a CISSP a certified IT Security Professional, that kind of action would be a direct failure to perform due diligence regarding both personal identifying Information, but also the danger of liability due to advertiser law suits.

The only way Accenture could do that work would be that the Accenture owns all assets regarding any IT infrastructure. Even if one computer in that structure is actually owned by META, or any software application is owned by META, or any rules and procedures are controlled by META, renders that a illegal contract.

How do I know, I have a Business Degree in Human resources from San Jose State University. It sounds like I should report Accenture and Meta to the State Dept of Justice, Bonta the Attorney General loves cases like this.


LongResident
Registered user
another community
on Nov 30, 2022 at 7:12 pm
LongResident, another community
Registered user
on Nov 30, 2022 at 7:12 pm

What I said is that according to the article they are indeed using some services from Accenture. Obviously that's not their entire web infrastructure nor their entire application infrastructure. The article talks about Accenture providing the content monitoring services at least part of them. So just read the article carefully.


JAFO
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Nov 30, 2022 at 7:34 pm
JAFO, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Nov 30, 2022 at 7:34 pm

JUst an Observation,

LongResident, whatever services had better be no related to ANY revenue generating business. That would include an Content Moderations because it is critical to prevent liability regarding Section 230 immunity.

I understand that most people have no education regarding the complexity of the legal regulations. So I am not trying to be confrontational. I am just trying to get the readers here to understand the problem here.

I understand a lot of people have lost 50% of their investment into Meta/Facebook. The facts are most "Social Media, Internet Services, and Gig Economy investors have lost at least 30% of their investments this year, and in some cases as much as 70%.

And there is no indication that will ever recover that is gone and it may take at least 5 years to even break even.

I just am observing that the long delayed bill of illegal cost offset ant lack of compliance with federal and state and local tax regulations is hitting the area hard. So far there is no indication of legislation going to change the IRS standards in Washington.

And in the most part the only way to recover is to completely relocate all of the work done by contractors OUTSIDE the state of CA. But if the courts eventually rule that AB5 standards apply nationwide, it won't make any difference.


Jane
Registered user
another community
on Dec 1, 2022 at 6:21 am
Jane , another community
Registered user
on Dec 1, 2022 at 6:21 am

What “John” forgot to mention is that the material he sees is so disturbing that he needs counseling right after his shift before he is sent home. Meta content moderator have this added service where they need to be connected to a counselor immediately. This mitigates the risk of having “John” off his zoom session and someone crying in his basement, or hurting himself or his family member. There is immediate intervention for “John” on the job.


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