Two former Microsoft employees are suing the firm claiming that their jobs gave them post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Henry Soto and Greg Blauert were part of Microsoft’s Online Safety Program. This program was implemented to review customer’s complaints of toxic images, video and written words as well as to comply with legislation in the United States.
In light of this a team was formed to review these complaints which Soto and Blauert were a part of. The pair claim that they were not warned about the effect their jobs could have on them despite Microsoft being aware of the dangers.
“They [the employees] were not told that the more they became invested in saving people, the less able they would become to act on their own symptoms of PTSD,” reads the court filing.
The lawsuit alleges that Soto and Blauert were not prepared for the depravity that can be found in the darkest corners of the internet and their duties began to take a toll on their mental health and subsequently their performance at the firm.
While Microsoft did provide a compassion fatigue counselor to help employees, Soto alleges that the counselling was ineffective and sought out the help of a psychiatrist which did little to help according to the court filing.
Both men appear to have been stellar employees before joining the Online Safety Program but as time passed the images and content they had to review impact their mental health significantly.
“Many people simply cannot imagine what Mr. Soto and to view on a daily basis as most people do not understand how horrible and inhumane the worst people in the world can be,” reads the filing.
Mental breakdowns appear to be a common occurrence on the team according to the lawsuit.
When the men filed a Labor and Industries claim for the injuries sustained by PTSD they were denied. The reason for this was stated as “the worker’s condition is not an occupational disease and is excluded from coverage.”
Microsoft has disputed the claims and told the BBC, “Microsoft takes seriously its responsibility to remove and report imagery of child sexual exploitation and abuse being shared on its services, as well as the health and resiliency of the employees who do this important work.”
Microsoft does seemingly take steps to assist employees but the degree of assistance is now being thrown into question as Soto and Blauert suffer far reaching effects as a result of their jobs including a distrust in humanity, hallucinations and a breakdown in their personal relationships.
The former employees are seeking compensation for the injuries they describe as permanent, progressive and disabling in the form of an amount to be decided at the trial against their former employer.
More than that however Soto and Blauert want to see changes implemented to the programme including weekly meetings with a psychologist and the ability for employees to leave when the content becomes too toxic.[Source – Courthouse News] [Image – CC BY 2.0 bfishadow]