Content Moderators’ Lawsuit Over Traumatic Work Fails Again–Aguilo v. Cognizant

This case involves Cognizant, a business process outsourcer (BPO) that performed content moderation work for Facebook. (Cognizant has since exited the field). In 2021, a federal court dismissed a putative class action lawsuit against Cognizant for trauma experienced by the content moderators. See Garrett-Alfred v. Facebook. Some of the content moderators in that case filed a new lawsuit in state court, which Cognizant removed back to federal court, where the court dismisses it again.

Fraudulent Concealment. The court says the allegations lack particularity. Specifically, the complaint doesn’t say “who at Cognizant should have warned Plaintiffs or precisely when and where they should have been warned.”

Furthermore, Cognizant may not have had a duty to disclose. The plaintiffs point to the Facebook-Cognizant contract as the source of that duty. However, the court says there’s no authority indicating that “Cognizant’s alleged contractual obligations to a third party could create a ‘special relationship’ between Cognizant and Plaintiffs giving rise to a duty to disclose about the dangers of content moderation….the contract between Cognizant and Facebook primarily involved business services between the two companies, not a quasi-fiduciary relationship between Cognizant and its employees.”

The common law also does not impose “a legal duty on the part of employers to warn their employees of psychological or emotional harm.” Nor does OSHA.

Medical Monitoring. Sometimes courts issue a remedy in mass tort cases of monitoring the plaintiffs’ health before they develop symptoms. This concept doesn’t apply here. The plaintiffs didn’t allege Cognizant’s negligence. Their health concerns aren’t latent; they claim to be suffering the psychological effects already. Finally, the legal doctrine requires exposure to a hazardous “substance,” but the court says moderated content isn’t a substance.

The plaintiffs get another chance to plead the fraud claims, so I expect to blog this case at least one more time.

Case citation: Aguilo v. Cognizant Technology Solutions U.S. Corp., 2022 WL 2106077 (M.D. Fla. June 10, 2022)