Facebook contractor Accenture allegedly pressured trauma therapists to disclose information from their employees’ workplace counseling sessions.
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“This pressuring of a licensed counselor to divulge confidential information is at best a careless breach of trust … and, at worst, an ethics and possible legal violation,” about a dozen employees of Facebook contractor, Accenture, wrote in a letter published by The Intercept.
Counselors are provided for the moderators at Facebook’s off-site Austin office who review reported disturbing content and till the network for safety. In a single shift, the moderators for the social media site and its subsidiary, Instagram, may see up to 800 posts, many of which are gruesome and violent.
Austin staff have previously aired workplace grievances on an internal company-wide Facebook message board known as Workplace. The contractors often complained they were being shortchanged compared to Facebook’s Silicon Valley staff.
The Washington Post reported in May that the moderators organized and published complaints about a starting wage of $16.50 an hour, which forced the employees to work multiple jobs, such as driving for rideshares, “to make ends meet.” The Post reported thousands of employees had viewed or commented on posts on Workplace, complaining about “micromanagement, pay cuts and inadequate counseling support.”
Following employee exasperation, Facebook committed to increase employee pay, according to a press release. Employees also say they have appreciated the trauma counseling service, until now.
In early July, an Accenture manager violated the privacy of employee trauma sessions while asking for information about the sessions.
In the letter obtained by The Intercept, the moderators wrote they were horrified to learn that the workplace therapists breached their clients’ trust and compromised their ethics, saying it is “no longer an isolated incident but a systemic top-down problem plaguing Accenture management.”
One moderator told The Intercept: “We’re trash to them. We’re a body in a seat, and they don’t acknowledge the work we do.”
Another staffer explained Facebook had caused the distress and should reform the employee experience.
“[Facebook is] largely responsible for any trauma reps experience, from a moral standpoint,” said the moderator. “They just wanted to further remove themselves from responsibility for making our lives hell.”
In the letter, employees are demanding the manager’s resignation and for systemic change.
A spokesperson for Facebook contractor Accenture disputed the claims after an investigation found them to be inaccurate.
"Our people’s wellbeing is our top priority and our trust-and-safety teams in Austin have unrestricted access to wellness support. Additionally, our wellness program offers proactive and on-demand counseling and is backed by a strong employee assistance program," Accenture's spokesperson told Fox Business.
The spokesperson added the company frequently reviews and invests in wellness programs "to create the most supportive workplace environment – regularly seeking input from industry experts, medical professionals and our people."
Facebook said in a statement, “All of our partners must provide a resiliency plan that is reviewed and approved by Facebook. This includes a holistic approach to wellbeing and resiliency that puts the needs of their employees first."
The company added subsequent report have found there were no legal breaches in confidentiality or HIPPA.
"All leaders and wellness coaches receive training on this employee resource and while we do not believe that there was a breach of privacy in this case, we have used this as an opportunity to reemphasize that training across the organization,” Facebook said in the statement.