Microsoft employees sue over PTSD after company required them to watch child porn and murder

Two Microsoft employees are suing the company after it allegedly made them watch "horrific images" of murder, bestiality, and child pornography, saying that it made them develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) over time.

Courthouse News reports that Greg Blauert and Henry Soto were part of the firm's "online safety team," which decides what kind of content should be taken down or reported to the police. The two claim that in order to do their job, they were forced to watch such extremely disturbing content.

They allege that they were not briefed in any way about the psychological impacts that the job could cause them, and that they were denied any support.

Instead of providing proper psychological care for employees, Microsoft reportedly developed a "Wellness Program," which advised employees who were affected by the disturbing content to take "walks and smoke breaks," as well as play video games to channel their thoughts away from work. This stood in contrast to members of the company's Digital Crimes Unit, who were reportedly provided with a 'comprehensive mental health program' that was allegedly not made available to Blauert, Soto and others in the online safety team.

According to Soto, he was transferred by Microsoft to the online safety department in 2008, and was required to stay there for a year and a half, before being given the ability to transfer somewhere else. He says that the job "took a significant toll on him personally" and has since developed nightmares and disturbing hallucinations after watching a clip of a girl being abused and murdered.

Blauert, on the other hand, is said to have suffered a breakdown in 2013 due to the work demands, and is still being treated for "acute and debilitating PTSD." The two employees claimed that they offered suggestions on how to improve work in the department, but that these were reportedly ignored, as The Daily Beast reports.

With this in consideration, Blauert and Soto together with their wives filed a lawsuit against Microsoft in the past month, alleging negligence, disability discrimination and violations of the Consumer Protection Act.

The plaintiffs have also applied for worker's compensation after being recommended for medical leave, but were denied, saying that “the worker’s condition is not an occupational disease," the suit alleges.

In response to this, a Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement:

“Microsoft applies industry-leading, cutting-edge technology to help detect and classify illegal images of child abuse and exploitation that are shared by users on Microsoft services. Once verified by a specially trained employee, the company removes the image, reports it to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, and bans the users who shared the images from our services. We have put in place robust wellness programs to ensure the employees who handle this material have the resources and support they need.”

The plaintiffs seek damages for pain and suffering, economic and treble damages under the Consumer Protection Act and Washington Disability Discrimination Act.

According to The Daily Beast, neither Blauert nor Soto has returned to work.

Source: Courthouse News via Newser

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