Google raters at Leapforce settle legal complaints over abuse, wages owed

Enlarge / Is there any justice in this vast sea of cubicles? (credit: Disney)

After months of high-profile mistakes and employee legal actions, the data quality assurance company Leapforce has been acquired by its rival, Appen. For years, Leapforce was one of the biggest "work at home" employers in Silicon Valley, providing task work to thousands of people worldwide. Called "raters," these task workers' main job was to evaluate the accuracy and relevance of Google search results, Google personalization, and content-sensitive ad placement.

Leapforce's work-at-home model was a lifesaver for people living in remote areas or housebound due to disabilities, and until earlier this year it was also a financial boon. By working thousands of 1- to 15-minute tasks each month via a special Google portal, many raters maintained a 40-hour workweek. But, as Ars Technica reported in April, there were problems. Raters would sometimes find themselves shut out of the system, unable to get work for days at a time. Evaluations of their work sometimes seemed arbitrary or capricious, and low scores on one evaluation could mean less access—and therefore fewer hours.

Compounding these problems was Leapforce's peculiar management system, where none of the raters knew their managers' names. Some managers would show up in the Leapforce internal chat system to offer guidance, but only under pseudonyms. Evaluations came from a generic admin email. If raters had questions or concerns about their work, they had to email this same admin account, and they often got no response for days.

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